Friday, November 02, 2012

The sweet deals that fund the Library and TPS levy campaigns

This is the first post taking a look at the sources of campaign funding for various property tax levy requests that are on the Nov. 6th ballot.

I previously documented donations to the 2010 Toledo Public Schools levies (here and here) and found that, unlike my expectations, businesses, not unions, were the major contributors.

Businesses, most of which are vendors of the school system (direct recipients of the tax dollars they seek to raise) and many which will never pay the tax themselves because of where they are located, want you to pay more so they can have access to the additional funds TPS will have to spend.

This year is no different.

Of the $53,196.95 raised and reported on the Committee for Schools pre-general campaign finance report, 60 percent comes from vendors of the school district.

When you think about it, it makes sense. If the school district has more money, it can pay these companies for more things. Unions have donated $12,000 through Oct. 17, the last day of the reporting period.

The largest contributor is the district’s law firm, Marshall & Melhorn, who gave the campaign $10,000. Four attorneys with the firm, including three who have represented TPS, each gave $500. That’s not bad considering that TPS has paid them $243,823.47 through September this year, according to documents on the TPS website.

Other large contributors included ProMedica, Buckeye Telesystems, Rice Securities and Squire Sanders, along with construction firms handling the school building program.

What is missing, so far, is a donation from the Toledo Federation of Teachers, the union representing teachers in the district.

Another interesting fact about the Committee for Schools report is the amount of donations coming from outside the city of Toledo. Nearly 52 percent comes from people who do not have a Toledo address on the campaign finance report.

They’re not going to pay the proposed tax, but they’re helping to pass a levy so others will.

What a deal!

But what about the library?

The Toledo-Lucas County Public Library has a sweet little system set up.

Their pre-general campaign finance report shows they've raised over $200,000 for this levy campaign. Added to the funds they carried over from their last levy, they have over a quarter of a million dollars to spend trying to convince you to give them a 45% raise in their income.

What's the sweet set-up used to raise that money?

They have a non-profit Library Legacy Foundation which lists such donors as the City of Toledo, the City of Maumee and Lucas County, along with individuals and businesses. This non-profit Foundation made a $40,000 donation to the levy committee.

Vendors also contributed, as did a few individuals, but the largest donations came from the individual branch Friends of the Library organizations.

Friends of the Library is a nonprofit organization that encourages, promotes and supports the ongoing development and use of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library. Friends of the Library offer support for:

* Brown Bag Concerts
* Authors! Authors!
* Summer Reading Club Programs
* Local branch activities
* Levy Campaigns

Each branch has their own group and they raise money for the organizations through memberships and book sales.

Since they're non-profits, their financials are not public records available for inspection, but they must be doing well for them to contribute $104,000 to the levy campaign.

Sanger Branch FOL donated a whopping $30,000. Kent Branch made two donations of $600 each, but the second $600 check had to be returned due to insufficient funds.

This means that the Kent Branch FOL zeroed out their account to help raise your taxes, instead of saving that money for local branch activities and their summer reading club.

Many people belong to the Friends of the Library chapters because they believe it's a way to help supplement the individual branch activities and provide funds - above and beyond the public funding the library gets - for library purposes. Do you think every FOL member realizes that their contributions are used to help raise their property tax bill?

I would love to compare the amount of money spent on the levy versus the amount of money spent on actual services or items for the branches, but since these are non-profits, their books are not public records.

That's not all. Online purchases also go to support raising your taxes. The library transferred $50,000 from an "Internet Sales Account" to the levy campaign.

All together, 93% of the money raised for this levy came from the non-profit organizations established by the library.

I can't help but wonder: Why don't they use that money and their fundraising techniques for the library instead of for a levy campaign? If they did, maybe they wouldn't need a 45% increase in income.

Tomorrow: Imagination Station and Toledo Parks and Recreation levies

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