Debating Issue 3Written by Guest Author | | GuestAuthor@toledofreepress.com
Protecting the progress of TPS
The biggest challenges facing our community relate to economics —keeping the region competitive, finding meaningful jobs for our citizens and preparing young people for the future.
The ability to meet these challenges is directly related to the strength of our schools.
Toledo Public Schools (TPS) is one of the few institutions that make a significant impact on our entire community. Quality schools are necessary to attract businesses and provide them with a well-prepared work force. Supporting education takes commitment, community leadership and financial stability.
Unfortunately, Toledo Public Schools is facing a significant budget deficit due to a number of factors that are beyond our control. The state has cut funds earmarked for education, property valuations are down and despite aggressive efforts to reduce our expenses, the district still faces a $30 million shortfall.
Despite this deficit, TPS is making progress. In 2006, we moved to Continuous Improvement as a district and maintain that distinction yet today. There has also been a decrease in the number of schools in Academic Emergency and an increase in schools ranked as Effective or Excellent. We have transformed two schools into new models for instruction and closed others in an attempt to address issues of underperformance. Academic initiatives have included the introduction of pacing guides and aligned curriculum. There has also been a significant increase in the level of parent and community participation in our schools. Minority inclusion numbers in our Building for Success program have been rising and show the commitment both the district and the board of education have made to work collaboratively with local contractors.
Over the years, we have worked collaboratively to balance our budget deficits through negotiations with our unions. In 2002, all TPS employees agreed to health care concessions and had their contracts extended through 2007. Modest raises were awarded at that time and again in 2009. Currently, employees pay a share of their retirement as required by law. Our employees continue to share the burden of the financial constraints the district is struggling with today by negotiating reductions in their wages and health care benefits.
District-wide improvements have been accomplished, despite the fact that TPS has not received new operating funds since 2001. TPS will appear on the May 4 ballot as Issue 3. This levy addresses concerns about continued reliance on property taxes by proposing a new tax on earned income. Those on pensions, unemployment and social security will not be taxed. This relieves the burden on senior citizens and provides a new approach to school funding in Toledo.
Now is a critical juncture for the Toledo Public School system. The community has an opportunity to vote for what they value in their public school system on May 4. If Issue 3 fails, there will be significant reductions in programs and services not required by law. Examples include eliminating transportation of high school students and instituting the state minimum of only transporting elementary and middle school students if they live two miles or more from school. Reductions of athletics will include middle school, freshman level and low participation high school sports. Academy models that provide choice options and innovation will also be reduced to provide for a minimum core for all students.
Progress comes at a price. Are Toledoans willing to spend three-fourths of a cent for each dollar earned to allow the progress of TPS to continue? Is the future of our students something we value? Can our city grow without a well-educated work force? The choice is yours Toledo … I hope you make the right one by voting for Issue 3 on May 4.
John Foley is Toledo Public Schools superintendent.
TPS income tax is wrong tax at wrong time
In the past few weeks a variety of organizations representing diverse views have taken a stance against Issue 3 and recommend a no vote May 4.
Issue 3 is the wrong tax as it hits the poorest the hardest by taxing every dollar earned in a community where the average per capita income is about $19,000 and the average annual household income is about $34,000.
That would mean an average increase in taxes of $142 per individual and $255 for a household.
It’s the wrong tax as income taxes are subject to the boom and bust of economic cycles. Revenue, at least during the school year, must remain constant. Cuts during the school year become a greater possibility with an income tax and such changes during the school year could seriously impact student learning. You don’t want to lay off teachers in middle of the school year.
We just have to look at what has happened to Toledo city finances to understand the impact that an economic downturn can have on revenue from an earned income tax.
It’s the wrong tax as it places the Toledo Public Schools (TPS) district at a distinct disadvantage with a much higher earned income tax than the all other surrounding communities.
Even within Toledo, the district would be at a competitive disadvantage as Toledo is also home to Washington Local Schools which does not have an income tax.
Fewer folks moving to the TPS area plus more folks moving out —lower demand for housing — lower home prices which means over the years your home will not appreciate at rates commensurate to surrounding communities. Seniors will be impacted significantly as their greatest single asset is their home where most of their net worth exists.
Finally, it’s the wrong tax because it is continuous. Residents will never get another chance to vote on the soundness of this tax should we later regret its passage— for me that sets off an alarm as we have no real means to correct a mistake.
It’s the wrong time as we are experiencing a deep and persistent recession. Unemployment has impacted many Toledo families and a jobs recovery is not yet evident.
It’s the wrong time because it will divert $18 million from the private sector to the public sector at a time when we need economic growth to create new jobs in Toledo. Much of the $18 million collected by this tax will go outside the Toledo community to employees living in suburban communities and to vendors and agencies outside Toledo.
With the multiplier effect of $1 being turned over several times in our economy, the overall economic impact will be much greater than $18 million.
So is it right to ask your school board to go back to the table for a revised look at district-wide cuts and cost efficiencies? This levy will at a minimum suppress job growth at a time when every new job in Toledo is needed.
TPS chose an income tax over a property tax because polling done by a local market research firm showed a property tax had little community support. TPS has made a point of courting seniors, but many seniors have gone back to work or may have to in order to stay afloat. This decision was politically motivated and is not in the best interests of Toledo and our children.
This tax is the wrong tax at the wrong time and voting “no” on Issue 3 on May 4 is the only sound option to assure a strong Toledo in the future.
Darlene Fisher is a former TPS school board president and member and is a founding member of Toledoans for Public Trust. Visit WrongTaxWrongTime.com for more information.
Tags: Toledo Public Schools