Wednesday, January 23, 2013

TPS decides no levy for the May ballot

I attended the Toledo Public School Board meeting last night because they were slated to vote on putting a levy on the May ballot. They chose not to do so and referred the matter back to the finance committee.

The Finance Committee held a special meeting to hear a proposal from the administration on renewing an existing 6.5 mill levy. The levy expires at the end of the year and the board will likely have it on the ballot at some point this year.

According to the discussion at the meeting last night, the committee had numerous questions about the various scenarios presented by the administration ranging from how much it would cost for the renewal to be on a special election (roughly $200,000), where the money would come from, how would they mount a campaign and who would lead it, etc...

Dr. Cecelia Adams, chair of the Finance Committee, said answers to these questions were critical in order to determine when the issue would be on the ballot.

The committee voted to recommend placing the renewal on the May ballot, but last night, Dr. Adams changed her support of that approach and did not make a motion to go forward on the May election.

Bob Vasquez, the other member of the Finance Committee made the motion to place the renewal on the May ballot. It died for a lack of a second. The matter was then referred back to the Finance Committee.

Lisa Sobecki expressed concern and dissatisfaction that the matter was brought to the board "at the 11th hour." The deadline for placing issues on the May ballot is Feb. 8.

She questioned the lack of a plan for getting the levy passed, especially in light of early voting which would begin in April, leaving the board only the months of February and March to plan a strategy, raise the money and convince voters of the need for the renewal.

Vasquez was not happy over the lack of a second to his motion and told the board as much. He then spoke at length in favor of putting the measure on the ballot, including questioning Treasurer Matt Cleland on the amount of "sacrifices" employees had made in prior contract negotiations and addressing TPS union representatives directly.

Board member Larry Sykes raised a point of order and said Vasquez had gone too far, but it was unclear if he was referring to the discussion without a pending motion on the floor or to Vasquez directly addressing the union reps about the upcoming contract negotiations.

Several board members mentioned that this renewal levy is included in the district's five-year budget plan so they definitely need the money to be approved. Their options now are to place the measure on the special election in August or wait until the general election in November.

If it's on the August ballot, it will still cost $200,000, but only $50,000 for the board's share of the November election. However, if the measure is on November's ballot and is defeated, there is no other chance to bring it before the voters. That was one of Vasquez's points for May - having both August and November for additional chances at passage.

Based upon the discussion, I would expect the administration to put together a plan for funding the renewal levy and for it to be on the August ballot - and then again on the November ballot if it doesn't pass at the special election.

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