Employees of Imagination Station encourage a 'yes' vote from Tuesday morning commuters in Downtown Toledo on the corner of Erie and Washington Streets. Voters rejected the renewal of a five-year, 0.17-mill levy
THE BLADE/LISA DUTTON
After elections officials counted ballots well into this morning, four of the five Lucas County levies passed and two others -- both in the city of Toledo -- failed.
Lucas County Board of Elections officials counted ballots until just before 4 a.m. They were delayed in releasing the last 7 percent of voter ballots as they sorted those that were unreadable and finished scanning the last of 22 precincts that were trickling in late.
Some races were extremely close, including a narrow win for the Lucas County Mental Health and Recovery Board and a narrow defeat for Imagination Station.
Levy requests by the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, Lucas County Children Services, and the Metroparks of the Toledo Area were approved.
Meanwhile, levies for Toledo's parks and recreation facilities and for Toledo Public Schools were defeated.
TPS officials, who held an election night gathering at the district's Summit Street Annex building, held out hope at about 11:30 p.m. - when only about a third of precincts were in - that they could still eke out a victory for their 4.9-mill, 10 year levy. Early returns had the money request facing a deep deficit, but the voting margins closed to a nearly 50-50 split, before beginning to widen again.
Without knowing which precincts had been counted, board of education member Brenda Hill said there was no way to know how the vote would go.
"We won't get a good picture until all the precincts are in," she said.
But with the likelihood the levy would fail, district officials were faced with what's next. The levy would have generated $13.3 million annually. Voters have not approved new levy money for the Toledo school district's general fund since 2000 and twice rejected ballot initiatives in 2010.
Superintendent Jerome Pecko said TPS leaders would meet this morning to discuss next steps. The school district's budget is balanced through the end of the fiscal year, so immediate program cuts wouldn't be necessary. But a failed levy would leave large budget deficits starting next fiscal year that would need to be closed.
"We can manage without eliminating programs; that's the good news," he said. "The bad news is we start seeing deficits."
Board president Lisa Sobecki said that even if voters rejected the levy, she said the district had gained significant community support during the campaign.
"At the end of the day, folks are recognizing the hard work we are doing," she said. "Now we have to convince the voters."
Ms. Hill said she expects the board to try again next year.
Children Services renewed a 1-mill levy, and added a new, 0.85-mill tax. The library system renewed a 2-mill levy and added a new 0.9-mill tax, and the Metroparks won a 0.9-mill levy.
The Metroparks levy includes a 0.3-mill levy that expires at the end of the year, but could only be used for purchasing land, not for maintenance and day-to-day park operations. The passed levy will assist with major maintenance and improvements at several parks, such as the Middlegrounds in downtown Toledo, Fallen Timbers Battlefield in Maumee, and others.
The Imagination Station's levy was a renewal of a five-year, 0.17-mill levy, while the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board's was for a new 1-mill, 10-year levy.
Toledo's parks and recreation facilities request was for a 1-mill levy.
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