Friday, October 7, 2022

When the levy breaks

And then there’s page two.

Just last issue we spent our precious column space lamenting the lack of choices facing voters across Lucas County. Most of the county-wide races pit powerhouse incumbents against patsy no-names. Some statewide incumbents, like Reps. Michael Ashford and Teresa Fedor, have no opposition at all. 

As detailed last column, the one true contest pits two sides of the same retread coin. That contest is for the seat of Lucas County recorder, a position that might have been important in the 19th century when it meant touching quill to logbook and recording the occasional land transaction with impeccable penmanship and nary an ink spot. In the current days of digital high speed internet, the basic job is to ensure there is adequate paper in the inkjet. Yep, the local races don’t have much pizzazz. And then there’s page two.

Brother can you spare a dime?

That’s where the tax levy issues are decided, and believe us, kiddeez, the dance card is filled to the brim. Every property taxing authority imaginable has seemingly decided to place a levy on the ballot this year, from the mental health board to the libraries to children’s services to the Metroparks. Some are seeking renewal of expiring levies, but most are either advancing renewals that don’t expire for one or two years or seeking new or additional funds.

Toledo Public Schools is high on the hit parade with a 6.9-mill request for new money. If approved, it would be the first new money for TPS in over a decade. Officials say it is essential to maintain and expand their transformation plan. 

Quick levy primer. When we pass a levy, even though it is advertised as a certain millage assessment on property values, we actually only approve the exact dollar amount those mills will raise at the time of passage. In other words, the money doesn’t increase even if property values do. Any extra money raised is absorbed into County coffers while the revenue for the schools remains flat. New millage would provide additional revenue after a decade of flat revenue but costs rising due to inflation.

Brand new to the party is a request placed on the ballot by Toledo City Council for a 1-mill levy to fund parks and recreation programming in the City. Recommended by a group of community folks convened by Council members Lindsay Webb and Steven Steel, it would purportedly raise over $3 million per year for ten years to rebuild crumbling park infrastructure and restore programming for kids, families and seniors.

Then there’s Imagination Station. And the zoo. And lots of others not available by press time, we’re certain.
Never fear the dearth of candidate choices. You’ll be racking your brains deciding the worthy public allocations of your property tax budget.
Why the rush this year? Why are everybody and their animal trainers cramming their levy requests into November twenny twelve?

Stand up and be counted

Simple political calculation, kiddeez. It’s a presidential election year, with lots of voters who only vote every four years flocking to the polls, and lots of liberal-leaning voters coming out for Obama’s re-election. The Obama camp will be beating the bushes pushing voter turnout, especially in the D strongholds of the central city. Those voters tend to support levies at the polls.

These facts elicit interesting responses from our more conservative brethren who oppose the levy ballot craze. We have heard strange lamentations that voters can’t be trusted, and that further only property owners should be able to vote. And other similar odd oratory that would erase two centuries of the progress of American democracy. Long live the king, anyone?

Such delusional dictatorial diatribes aside, the larger question remains. If voter turnout determines the fate of these levies, and more importantly, if high voter participation ensures their passage, doesn’t it follow that they are indeed the will of the vast majority of the populace? If we truly are the greatest democracy in the world, shouldn’t we want everyone’s voice to be heard? And if that cacophony of voices wants public investment in all of the above, shouldn’t we applaud that investment?

The levies we choose to support could help determine our long term viability as a community. Quality of life, community of choice and all that. Shall we tighten our belts, fund our assets, and turn our eager faces to the brightness of the rising T-Town sun?

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