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Seven tax levies on Lucas Co. ballot in Toledo
By Kevin Milliken for La Prensa


Oct. 26, 2012: Voters who live inside the district boundaries of Toledo Public Schools will face seven property tax levy requests on the November ballot—the most in recent election memory.


But the only one of the seven not asking for new money or a property tax increase is Imagination Station. The levy for the downtown Toledo science center is a straight renewal of a property tax proposal that took three tries before it passed the first time.


The remaining six levies cite a combination of reduced state funding and lower property values as the need for more local dollars.


The crowded ballot includes four other county-wide levies: the Lucas County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board, Lucas County Children Services, the Toledo Area Metroparks, and the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library. There also is a TPS levy and a parks and recreation property tax request approved by Toledo City Council last July.


According to an analysis by the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce, the owner of a $100,000 home in TPS would face an annual tax increase of just under $284. The TPS levy accounts for more than half of that potential property tax increase. Voters can look at their total tax impact at: www.toledochamber.com/advocacy/Campaign_Central.aspx.


The TPS levy would be the first new local tax dollars for the district in over a decade. Other local school districts asking voters to approve levies include: Perrysburg, Ottawa Hills, Anthony Wayne, and Bowling Green.


Toledo Public Schools: Issue 20

TPS recently picked up some key public endorsements from some of its community partners and the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce.


The boards of the United Way of Greater Toledo, the YMCA/JCC of Greater Toledo, and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Toledo each voted separately to endorse Issue 20. The administrative leaders of those three agencies pledged their support during a press conference Sept. 28 at United Way headquarters downtown.


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 officials contend the district has not received any new local money in more than a decade.


“Board members had citizens in their mind when this came about,” said Lisa Sobecki, TPS board president. “I think that speaks volumes for the leadership of the board and the leadership of the administration as well. We had the voter in the mind. We know that voters are still facing some hard economic times.”


But the TPS levy is among seven that district voters will decide next month. TPS officials do admit that crowded ballot may be cause for concern, as voters rank their personal priorities at the polls and vote accordingly—making economic decisions along the way.


“We’ve thought about that from time-to-time and get somewhat concerned,” admitted Dr. Jerome Pecko, TPS superintendent. “But we can’t go there. We need to just stay focused on our needs. We understand that there are other organizations out there that also have needs. We just need to sell ours and hopefully the community will support the schools.”


Key to that levy campaign is explaining the TPS transformation plan and what’s next for the district if the levy passes. District officials already have converted all elementaries to neighborhood-based K-8 schools.


Among the next steps in a data-driven decision-making model will be converting the high schools to specialize academic programs, allowing students to enroll in a program area of interest. For example, Woodward High School would focus on careers in renewable sources of energy.


Passage of the levy, TPS officials said, would allow the district to pursue initiatives such as a district-wide discipline program that emphasizes positive behavior supports, and a new “data dashboard” which would allow parents and teachers to track the academic progress of individual students in real time. Parents could also communicate with parents by computer from home. Teacher evaluations also would be conducted based on their students’ academic performance.


“The levy is not just about the transformation plan, but to continue to fund our programs in a manner to educate kids for 21st-century learning opportunities,” said Ms. Sobecki.


La Prensa urges its readers to vote for this vital levy.


Toledo Parks and Recreation: Issue 5

Toledo City Council members Lindsay Webb and Steve Steel, both Democrats, are championing a permanent and dedicated source of funding for the continued maintenance of city parks and recreation programming. Both council members contend city parks and rec facilities have fallen into disrepair in the face of recent budget cuts. City crews this summer demolished a handful of city-owned pools, including one at Highland Park.


The new one-mill, ten-year levy would generate about $3 million per year for parks and recreation maintenance and programming. The owner of a $100,000 home would pay $30.62 per year if the levy is approved by voters.


Backers point out almost every other community in the area has a parks and rec levy, including Maumee, Oregon and Sylvania. Recreation funding comes from the city’s general fund. A master plan is being drawn up to determine what is needed from the city parks system and implement decisions made by citizens. Community groups such as the YMCA were represented on a task force that recommended the levy as a source of funding improved recreation programs for the city’s youth.


La Prensa urges its readers to vote for the parks and recreation levy.


Toledo Area Metroparks: Issue 21

Toledo Area Metroparks is asking voters to approve an expansion of its existing land acquisition levy for capital improvements and park maintenance programs.


The park system’s board of directors voted in July to place a 0.9-mill, ten-year levy on the ballot. That’s triple the millage of an existing levy that expires at the end of the year. The owner of a $100,000 home would pay $27.56 per year, an increase of $19.10 from the $8.46 citizens pay to the current levy.


Metroparks officials hope to use the expanded levy to finish development of existing parks and land already purchased. Those parks are at various stages in the planning process, including the Middlegrounds near downtown Toledo, Blue Creek Conservation Area in Whitehouse and the Fallen Timbers Battlefield in Maumee. The park system also would like to build a hiking/biking trail to connect Secor Metropark in Sylvania Township with Oak Openings Metropark, both part of an oak savannah where a long-term effort to preserve wildflowers and other plants native to Northwest Ohio is ongoing.


The Metroparks also has a general operating levy, which is not set to expire for another five years. It’s been nearly 20 years since voters have turned down a Metroparks levy. The park system projects three million visitors by the end of this year, a new record.

La Prensa urges its readers to vote for the Metroparks levy.


Toledo-Lucas County Public Library: Issue 23

The Toledo-Lucas County Public Library has placed a 2.9-mill, five-year levy on the ballot which would replace and beef up an existing 2-mill levy set to expire at the end of this year. The current 2-mill levy has been in effect for four years. The proposed levy would l cost the owner of a $100,000 home $88.80 per year, a $27.55 per-year hike from the current property tax levy voters have been paying since 2007.


The levy is expected to generate more than $21 million to $23 million annually, which comprises roughly half of the library’s budget. The other half is provided by state funding. The public library system has not seen a levy lose in 25 years.


The library suffered a double-digit state budget cut in 2009 and officials there say the system is now operating at 1996 funding levels. The Sanger branch in West Toledo is the only one left with Sunday hours. Library administrators are promising to restore many of the hours previously cut at 19 neighborhood and suburban branches if the levy passes.  


The library system continues to see record use from patrons, recording nearly three million visitors last year. Attendance has remained high during tough economic times, as patrons sought job information, homework help, and utilized research databases and other tools the library maintains as an information center. Library officials warn those resources could be cut by as much as half if the levy fails.


La Prensa urges its readers to vote for this vital educational levy.


Lucas County Mental Health and Recovery Services: Issue 24

The Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Lucas County (MHRS) wants taxpayers to approve a ten-year, 1-mill levy. Voters most recently passed a levy renewal in 2008, but agency leaders contend this is the first time new money has been sought in 24 years.


The levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $30.62 annually, in addition to the levy dollars already being collected by the agency’s 2008 levy. The agency’s director told a levy review committee over the summer that $7 million was lost over a six-year period to state budget cuts and lower property values. The agency has had to dip into its cash reserves and cut services to make up the difference.


While the new levy would help to restore that lost funding with local dollars, the agency doesn’t plan to add any new services in the near future. MHRS is the result of a merger between the county mental health agency and the former Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services (ADAS) board, which historically has had trouble passing a levy.


Scott Sylak said the agency has cut board and administrative services by more than 25 percent and has worked with its provider networks to improve the efficiency of the system and implement outcome measures to determine how effective the services are. Non-management staff has received one small pay increase in the past five years while executive and management staff haven’t received any increase.

La Prensa urges its readers to vote for this levy.


Lucas County Children Services: Issue 25

Lucas County Children Services is looking to replace a current one-mill levy which doesn’t expire until the end of 2013 with a 1.85-mill, ten-year levy. Agency officials are going to the ballot a year early for two reasons: to better project future funding and services and with the hope a presidential election year will boost the levy’s chances of passing with a traditionally larger voter turnout. The levy request comes just one year after voters approved a companion levy.


This levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $56.66 per year, an increase of $26.04 per year. In recent years, Children Services has reduced its levy funding requests, after being urged to spend down large cash reserves. Agency officials contend those reserves now need replenished to ensure the current child welfare system can be properly maintained.


Staffing levels of child caseworkers in the field have been maintained, but $800,000 in budget cuts would still be needed even if the levy passes. However, a levy defeat would mean nearly $14 million worth of cuts in the agency’s current $43 million budget. A levy loss also would mean the loss of even more federal matching dollars. Contracted services such as substance abuse programs for troubled kids and mentoring and tutoring for children would be in danger. Staff cuts also would be inevitable, agency leaders contend.

La Prensa urges its readers to vote for this levy.


Imagination Station: Issue 26

Imagination Station is another agency that has chosen to go to the ballot a year early, asking voters to renew its current 0.17-mill, five-year levy. The property tax generates about $1.3 million of the science museum’s $3.2 million annual budget, costing owners of a $100,000 home $5.21 per year. The rest of the science center’s budget comes from gate admissions, memberships, corporate sponsorships, development and donations.


Since 2009, Imagination Station has drawn more than 500,000 visitors to the downtown Toledo waterfront and presented thousands of schoolchildren with lessons in science and technology. Science center leaders contend they’ve kept their promise to seek out more corporate sponsorships of permanent displays and exhibits. The nonprofit museum recently announced a series of traveling exhibits scheduled through 2018.


Two previous levy attempts failed in 2006 and 2007 when it was called COSI-Toledo. Those levy losses forced the science museum to close and revamp its operations before a third levy attempt was approved by voters.


La Prensa urges its readers to vote for this levy.



Copyright © 1989 to 2012 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 10/23/12 18:30:06 -0700.




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