By Maggie Thurber | Special to Ohio Watchdog
Toledo Public Schools has a new 4.9 mill levy on the November ballot. This is on top of the 64.39 mills it already collects and in addition to its $11.22 million carryover from the 2011-12 school year.
While this would seem to be enough money — at least to get through to next year — TPS is running a campaign urging voters to increase the taxes they pay by $13.3 million a year.
But who is behind the push to raise the property taxes?
You’re probably thinking that the majority of contributions to the levy campaign came from unions, especially the teachers and administration unions who represent employees in the district.
You would be wrong.
Certainly the unions, along with the school board and school administration, want more money, but it is businesses who are the largest contributors.
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.
The businesses that are donating who are in the district won’t really pay the tax either. They’ll just pass that additional overhead on to their clients who will end up paying more for their services as a result. Toledoans will pay twice — once for their own taxes and then again when they pay higher prices for the products the business contributors sell.
For TPS, this means that its vendors will raise their prices, and TPS will need even more money to pay those additional costs, so it’ll ask for another levy, which it’ll fund through contributions from vendors, who will then raise their prices when the levy passes.
It’s a vicious cycle with taxpayers footing the bill.
But it’s not just Toledo. Matt Mayer, in his book “Taxpayers Don’t Stand A Chance,” noted that the entire $41,000 spent by the Good Schools Committee on behalf of a 2011 Dublin City Schools levy came from vendors and school district employees.
Mayer also notes that rarely do traditional media outlets share this information with voters as part of their levy reporting.
With 1,055 tax levies on the ballot in Ohio this year — 151 of which are for schools — voters should check the campaign finance reports to see who is behind the quest to raise their taxes.
Campaign finance reports are all public records and are available from your county Board of Elections.