Local nonprofit groups, La Prensa back TPS levy, others on November ballot
By Kevin Milliken for La Prensa
The Toledo Public Schools levy campaign is picking up steam, as the school district picks up endorsements from community groups.
At a press conference Fri. Sept. 28, 2012, TPS received the endorsements of three community partners—from the boards of the United Way of Greater Toledo, the YMCA/JCC of Greater Toledo, and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Toledo. The administrative leaders of those three agencies pledged their support at United Way headquarters downtown.
The board of the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce also voted to endorse Issue 20 earlier the same week. La Prensa Newspaper has also endorsed the TPS levy.
TPS is asking voters to approve a 4.9-mill, ten-year operating levy on the November 6 ballot. The millage is a reduction from a previously-announced 6.9-mill permanent levy, as the district discovered some cost savings related to its transformation plan, particularly the conversion to K-8 elementary schools. The new version of the levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $150 more per year and would generate $13.3 million annually.
TPS Superintendent Dr. Jerome Pecko and three school board members attended the levy endorsement announcement. Several TPS counselors and principals also interrupted a previously-scheduled meeting they were attending at the United Way over Americorps graduation coaches to witness the public show of support.
“This is not a reactionary, nor is it a guaranteed statement or position,” said Jane Moore, interim United Way president/CEO. “But it’s one that took careful consideration, research, inquiry, and commitment. In order to move our community forward, our children and our families have to be successful.”
United Way board member and public policy advisory committee chairman Larry Friedman noted TPS officials have made “excellent progress” in the past few years—cutting the district’s budget by about $100 million, or 25 percent. He also called TPS “more open and transparent” than in the past. He cited the district’s transformation plan, saying “it is working, but it will take time.”
Todd Tibbits, YMCA president & CEO, noted a number of community partnerships the YMCA has engaged with TPS—including before and after-school child care, 72,000 free summer meals at school sites this past summer, and mentoring/tutoring programs.
“I have had nothing but incredible receptivity and partnership from Toledo Public Schools, with the common mission and common theme to reach out and serve the needs of the children and the families in our community,” he said.
Three of the four service sites for the Boys and Girls Clubs are located within TPS elementary schools, including the newest one in the Old South End.
“The education of our children is essential to not only their futures, but the future of our community,” said Dave Wehrmeister, executive director of the Boys and Girls Clubs. “It is up to us to step in and invest in our children’s success.”
“We could not be where we are today without the support of these community agencies,” said Dr. Pecko, noting the meeting involving strategies for graduation coaches within the schools. “That initiative is one really focused on trying to improve the graduation rate of our students and it is having an impact.”
Public endorsements may help TPS rise to the top of seven property tax levies Toledo voters will consider next month. Toledo City Council approved a ballot request for parks and recreation operations as well.
Five county-wide levies also will appear on the November ballot, including the Lucas County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board, Lucas County Children Services, Imagination Station, the Toledo Area Metroparks, and the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library. Most of those levy requests are either new funding or a potential increase in property taxes.
La Prensa endorses all of the levies.
A familiar theme among the levy campaigns is a double whammy involving reduced property values and reduced state funding, prompting the need for increased local dollars to continue operating. Chamber of commerce analysis shows the owner of a $100,000 home in TPS would see a property tax increase of $284 per year if all seven levies pass.