Mayor changes his tune: Taxpayer will be asked to partially pay for Universal Pre-K

TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - The mayor of Toledo admitted to 13abc Wednesday that he will be asking for taxpayer help to pay for Universal Pre-K. This after repeatedly saying otherwise, that private funds would foot the whole bill.

The mayor says from the start it was his intention to do what he says no other major Ohio city has done: fund Universal Pre-K entirely with private sector money. It turns out, though, that just isn't in the cards.

"That's the sort of thing we want to partner with and join to try to improve our city in a way that taxpayers are not on the hook, but is really valuable in terms of producing the sort of outcomes we want to see," Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz said in December 2018.

"Right now I don't believe the taxpayers are going to be asked to participate in this at all. The taxpayers have their hands full making sure our roads are plowed, we have police officers and firefighters. It is our hope and expectation that this important initiative will be funded privately," Kapszukiewicz said in February 2019.

13abc has asked the mayor more than once if taxpayers will pick up any part of the bill to fund Universal Pre-K in Toledo.

Here's his most recent response just last month:

"We have you on tape ... saying that taxpayers shouldn't have to pay for it," 13abc reporter Michael Bratton said to Kapszukiewicz. "So are you still pretty adamant, though, that taxpayers shouldn't have to flip this bill?"

"I am adamant that we need to achieve this goal as a community," Kapszukiewicz replied.

But Wednesday, the mayor changed his tune.

"I'm proud that we were able to raise two million dollars of private money. No other city has done that. For the program to work though, it needs a little help from the public and I'm willing to take whatever slings and arrows of outrageous fortune come my way," he said.

After meeting with a national consultant, the mayor says he realized those private funds couldn't pay for the program alone. He says that was always the goal.

"I would feel comfortable that we've honored our commitment to the citizens. We've honored our promises, but more importantly we have done what we needed to do to make sure Toledo's kids are ready to learn," Kapszukiewicz said.

To get that money, the mayor is proposing to raise Toledo's existing temporary .75% income tax to 1.25%. The main focus would be fixing up city roads.

"A 45 fold increase in the amount of roads we resurface every year for ten years. So, instead of doing a mile and a half we're going to do 70 miles of residential road every year for ten years," Kapszukiewicz said.

The March 2020 levy would also pay to grow the police force, invest in parks, plus add a new summer youth sports league.

And yes, partially fund Universal Pre-K.

The new, higher income tax would run for ten years.

"I think more than anything what they want is a plan. This is a plan," Kapszukiewicz said.

The mayor says it was intentional to put both road resurfacing and Universal Pre-K on the same levy. Should it fail in March, the city would need to re-evaluate a new plan for the November election.