TOLEDO, OH (Toledo News Now) - The Toledo Public School board approved a 6.9 mill levy Monday to be placed on the November ballot.
All five members of the board voted yes. They say long-range financial forecasts put TPS in a $15 million deficit by 2014.
Leaders say they have been securing grants and cutting down expenses, but it is just not enough to keep the district operating.
"If it doesn't pass in November, we're looking at making cuts in the spring time. We have to do that," said TPS Superintendent Jerome Pecko.
TPS has been operating without levy support since 2001 and the last two attempts at passing a levy failed. This new levy would cost residents with a $60,000 house about $127 a year.
"This is the first step of many steps we have to go, but I think there is going to be a different philosophy as how our campaign is being done. We're really proud of our students, and we're going to continue to invest in them, and ask the community to invest in them. So we have a lot of work to do between now and November 6," said TPS Board President Lisa Sobecki.
School Board Member Bob Vasquez says the levy needs to pass because TPS has worked hard in implementing a transformation plan this school year that has been successful. Even so, he knows it will be tough asking voters to pay out more money.
"We've been one of the hardest hit communities economically, but we don't want the education of our students to suffer from that. So we really need to pass this levy," said Vasquez.
In a separate decision at the same meeting, the board reinstated freshman sports.
Community Leader Support
Following the meeting, community leaders gathered to show support of the levy. In attendance were Mayor Mike Bell; UT President Lloyd Jacobs; Council President Joe McNamara; and President of the Lucas County Commissioners Pete Gerken.
They emphasized that strong schools promote job growth and protect property values. They said the investment by the community will help the district continue the multi-year transformation plan and allow the school system to contribute to the region's renewal.
"This is a do or die situation for us," said Pecko.
Pecko says the district's finances are looking grim.
"Our district only has one more year of a balanced budget and then we start to run a huge deficit," said Pecko.
Sobecki is grateful the levy passed with a unanimous vote.
"We've had a tsunami hit the school districts. Public education has had tsunamis hit them. We've had tsunamis hit our community and this is still that recovery mode," said Sobecki.
Bell says kids need a solid education.
"Not having the funding to do it puts our kids at a disadvantage and as a mayor, I cannot accept that as a practice that we're going to have inside the city of Toledo," said Bell.
A levy campaign committee has started forming and will begin door-to-door campaigning in the next few weeks.