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Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

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Levy collections have been negatively impacted by property reevaluations and reduced state replacement dollars, plus state and federal allocations have been reduced.

That is the common theme heard from many organizations which say they must go to the ballot this November to recoup lost funds or else the community suffers the consequences.

Representatives for seven Toledo and Lucas County levies to be on the ballot Nov. 6 are expected to attend a levy forum hosted by the East Toledo Club and East Toledo Family Center Oct. 10 at 6:30 p.m. at the Family Center, 1020 Varland.

While some ballots are for Toledo residents only, others are Lucas County-wide initiatives.

Press Newspapers General Manager John Szozda will moderate the forum. Levies to be addressed and speakers expected to attend include —

 Toledo City Public Schools - 4.9 mills (was 6.0); additional 10 years - Superintendent, Jerome Pecko.

 Metropolitan Park District of Toledo Area - 0.9 mills; additional 10 years - Scott Carpenter, Communications and Dave Zenk, Park Superintendent.

 Toledo Lucas County Public Library - 2.9 mills; renewal, increase five years - Margaret Danziger, Deputy Director and Mary Kinkus and Julie McCann, East Toledo Branch managers.

 Lucas County Mental Health and Recovery Services - 1 mill; additional 10 years - Robert Kasprzak, Manager of Prevention and Special Projects.

 Lucas County Children Services - 1.85 Mills; renewal/increase five years - Dean Sparks, Executive Director.

 Imagination Station - 0.17 mills; renewal for five years - Stephanie Brinkman, Marketing Coordinator.

 City of Toledo, Recreation Levy - 1 mill; additional 10 years - Steven Steele, City Councilman at Large.
 

Metroparks
Part of the 0.9 mill levy will be offset because a 0.3 mill levy is expiring, Carpenter explained.

“This levy is about taking care of what we’ve got and finishing what we’ve started,” Carpenter said.

He added that in addition to replacing the income from the expiring levy, the new levy will help recapture funds that have been lost over the past five years because of reduced property values and additional losses from reductions in state funding. The money will go toward major maintenance and capital improvements, as well as daily operations, such as ranger patrols.

“In short, the levy is needed to stop what we see as a slow decline because of financial cut-backs. In the past few years, we have lost 10 full-time employees. If we continue to cut back, we’ll have to defer maintenance and capital improvements, which will only become more costly in the future. This levy will help us maintain the parks as people have come to expect,” Carpenter said.

The district has nine Metroparks and 11,000 acres to maintain.

“Keeping the parks open every day of the year, in good condition, with ranger patrols and no admission fee is our primary focus. We feel that we deliver a high value for the cost. This year we expect to have up to three million visitors, so the Metroparks collectively are one of the most-used institutions in Lucas County. According to community surveys, the Metroparks are highly valued as community assets.”

Carpenter said the levy would cost the owner of a $75,000 home $20.67 a year.


Library
The Toledo-Lucas County Public Library kicked off its levy campaign supporting Issue 23 with a rally attended by some 200 staffers and supporters at Fifth Third Field in downtown Toledo.

Community volunteer Margarita De Leon, a consultant for The Kaleidoscope Group, served as the levy rally's mistress of ceremonies, joined by Library Director Clyde Scoles.

“This operating levy represents nearly 50 percent of our operating budget and must pass in November in order for our entire system to sustain what we’ve all come to expect and cherish and enjoy…we have been good stewards in the past and you can count on us to use these critical funds to the best of our ability and in the interest of every Lucas County resident,” Scoles said.

The library’s 2.9 mill operating levy will replace an existing 2.0 mill levy that expires at the end of this year. The .9 increase (9/10s of a mill) will replace what users lost due to budget cuts of the past and would cost the owner of a $100,000 home less than eight cents per day.

Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken was joined by speakers Dennis Johnson, Library Board President and Levy Chairperson, and Levy Honorary Chairs John and Jeanie Hayward at the rally. John Hayward holds emeritus status on the board of the Library Legacy Foundation.

During the rally, library donors, including the Friends of the Library, Library Legacy Foundation, the Association of Library Employees, and Communication Workers of America, pledged a joint donation of $245,500 for the campaign.


Mental Health
The Lucas County Mental Health and Recovery Services 1.0 mill levy will cost the owner of a $100,000 home $2.53 per month. It is the board’s first new funding request in 24 years.

The board funds 17 community-based agencies to provide a continuum of preventions, treatments, and recovery support services. The board says 97 cents of every dollar received supports patient services, such as treatment for mental health disorders, suicide interventions for children and youth and prevention services.

They say costs for cutting treatment would affect one in four residents, impacts health, employment, homelessness, incarceration and premature death and increases costs for hospitalization, emergency homeless shelters and incarceration which are paid for by Lucas County citizens.

The board says since 2008 the demand for treatment has increased, while revenue from local property taxes and state and federal governments has fallen sharply. The board has taken steps to cut costs, eliminating $3.9 million in programs and services to offset this loss of revenue and reducing staff by 20 percent.

Even with these cuts, a deficit is projected for the next fiscal year. Without additional funds, the board says it will have to further reduce services, which would most likely mean that only people with the most severe illnesses will be served and the remainder will be left to seek help in the community, where services may or may not exist.

“While the board understands that people are experiencing hard times, the request is vital to maintaining a safety net for our most vulnerable citizens,” according to a prepared statement. “This is an important and necessary step that can help eliminate the suffering of people who live and work around us every day. Untreated mental illness and substance abuse create hidden costs throughout our community that can be diminished with effective treatment.”

The board’s services handle life-threatening psychiatric emergencies for 4,000 county residents who will be able to seek community-based crisis services. More than 700 Lucas County residents will be able to obtain or remain in housing and avoid homelessness through board funded providers.

More than 24,300 residents will receive treatment, avoiding more costly hospital admissions and stabilizing families. Offenders receiving sustained treatment are seven times less likely to be re-arrested. Lucas County residents remaining in treatment are 21 times more likely to be employed.


Children Services
The LCCS request is a renewal for their 1.0 mill levy passed in 2008, with an increase. The 1.0 mill levy expires at the end of 2013. Collection on the 1.85 mill levy would begin in 2014. The owner of a $75,000 home would pay $19.52 per year.

LCCS officials appeared with a presentation before the Lucas County Commissioners’ Levy Review Committee, saying levy dollars are used to leverage federal reimbursement.

LCCS officials say without the levy dollars, they are unable to collect necessary federal funds. The LCCS claims, too, that levy collections have been negatively impacted by property reevaluations and reduced state replacement dollars, plus state and federal allocations have been reduced.

The LCCS has been using the fund balance (unused levy dollars) to make up the difference, but with the dramatically reduced fund balance the LCCS now needs an increase in its levy to maintain operations.

Should the levy not pass, the agency would need to cut $13 million from its budget. Other revenue tied to levy income will decline, and it could mean a 40 percent reduction of the agency’s workforce, resulting in increased placement costs. LCCS official say children will be at risk.

The impact on the budget could also affect youth in LCCS custody who have serious behavior problems, including those who are delinquent, unruly or ruled incompetent to stand trial. It could also affect pending state human trafficking legislation that would make LCCS and other children’s services organizations responsible for juvenile human trafficking victims.

Cost-saving measures already employed by LCCS include the Kinship Subsidy Program, which has reduced financial support to help families pay for kin, 25 staffing positions have been eliminated by attrition, there have been no increases in two years to non-bargaining unit salaried staffers, and the LCCS is limiting personnel cost increases by adjusting contracts through the collective bargaining process.


Imagination Station
Imagination Station board of directors chairman David Waterman, executive director Lori Hauser and special guest speaker Deicie Sawyers say the existing levy will enhance the science center’s educational reach.

Waterman said Issue 26 was not a new tax, but a renewal of the Imagination Station’s existing five-year property tax levy. The levy costs $3.91 per $75,000 in residential value annually.

Funds generated by the existing levy totaled approximately $1.25 million in 2012 and represented about a third of the science center’s annual budget. Renewal funds would not be released to the Imagination Station until after the initial levy is exhausted in 2013.


Toledo Public Schools
Toledo Public Schools is asking voters to approve Issue 20, a 4.9 mill 10-year operating levy. The levy would cost the owner of a $60,000 home $90.04 annually and the owner of a $100,000 home $150 per year.

TPS is in the middle of a historic transformation plan with a focus on more efficient operations. According to spokesperson Patty Mazur, savings from the transformation plan, fewer students attending charter and parochial schools and a bond refinancing has allowed the district to reduce the amount of this levy request.

TPS continues to face financial pressure from reduced state funding, reduced property values and loss of revenue to charter schools, according to a prepared statement. Without the support of the levy, the district will have a $16.4 million deficit by 2015 and $48.04 million by 2016.

With the levy, in 2015 the district would have a balanced budget and in 2016 the deficit would be only $2 million.

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Christmas spending

Are spending more, less or the same amount this year for Christmas?
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