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.
Superintendent Dr. Jerome Pecko’s said TPS had an unexpected savings in expenditures of $8 million, but must go to the ballot. He said no additional revenue has been received, and the deficit for next year is still projected at $4 million.
He added that because of the $8 million savings, the board chose to lower the levy request from 6.9 mills to 4.9 mills. Pecko said TPS has not had an increase in operating expenses since 2001.
Pecko said savings from a 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.
Pecko said TPS continues to face financial pressure from reduced state funding, reduced property values and loss of revenue to charter schools. Without the support of the levy, the district will have a $16.4 million deficit by 2015 and $48.04 million by 2016.
With passage of the levy, in 2015 the district would have a balanced budget and in 2016 the deficit would be only $2 million.
Two years ago, a 7.6 mill levy request failed, resulting in quick action by the board and administration, Pecko said.
“The restructuring gave us time before we began to fall into a deficit,” the superintendent explained. “As a result, we stretched the dollars out over a 24-month period. We are now at the point where the 24-month period is coming to an end. We feel that its’ extremely important for the 23,000 students we serve to continue offering the things we are offering.”
Dr. Pecko said if the November 6 levy fails this year, it will begin affecting TPS during the 2013-14 school year.
“What we will do is try to look at every opportunity to find reductions that are as far away from students as possible,” Pecko said.
Dr. Pecko also faced a question about why Waite High School was to receive $17.2 million for renovations when architectural twin Scott was getting closer to $37 million. Waite’s number ended up being closer to $20 million, but alumni were still not pleased about the discretion.
The superintendent said the board was continuing to look into ways to bring additional renovations to Waite from the capital fund. He noted that when the Ohio Schools Facilities Commission plan was announced 10 years ago, he was not the superintendent and had no say over the matter.
Pecko said that the Waite renovations are on schedule to be completed during this school year, and he recommended that alumni and residents take a tour. He explained that Scott was a “complete rebuilding project,” and praised a “strong Waite alumni association” that helped by finding additional funds for renovation of the school’s auditorium.
Pecko said TPS is in the middle of a historic transformation plan with a focus on more efficient operations.
“We did shake the place up with the planning two years ago and we complemented that last year,” Pecko said. “The reason for (making every elementary K-8) was because it was doing something that was consistent with national research. The fewer transitions students have to deal with, the more opportunities they have to achieve.”
Pecko said the transition plan has already resulted in higher results in math and science achievement tests for eighth grade students. It’s a double digit increase in math and six percent in science.
“Those are levels that are significant,” Pecko said. “We haven’t seen those kinds of numbers in a number of years.”
Another part of the plan was to take students out of self-contained rooms as much as possible, which he said was especially beneficial to the autistic and special education students.