YOUNGSTOWN City, school board to resolve issues

Council could help the school board while the lawsuit settlement is finalized.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Differences are clearing up between the city and the board of education over construction of the new West Elementary School and a tax abatement lawsuit involving CCA. Resolution of both issues is possible as soon as next week, city Law Director John McNally IV told council's education committee Tuesday.
That would meet the school district's Sept. 10 deadline to decide how to build the new school at Schenley Park.
An outline for settling the lawsuit will be available within a few days, McNally said. If the outline looks promising, he said, he could advise that council help the school board with its construction issue, while lawyers continue to settle the lawsuit.
The issue
Council has hesitated to provide city land needed to build the new school because of the suit against Corrections Corp. of America and the city. At issue is a dispute over tax breaks the city gave CCA. The city faces up to $8 million in liabilities if it loses the case, set for trial Oct. 28.
Meanwhile, the school board needs the land. As the new West Elementary is designed now, city land would be combined with board-owned land to build a two-story school.
The district will be forced to build a three-story school if the needed city land isn't in hand by Sept. 10, said Anthony DeNiro, the board's executive director of administrative services.
Meanwhile, it would cost the city about $150,000 to relocate playground equipment and facilities off school property if that happens, board officials said.
DeNiro is encouraged by the settlement talks. But he asked council to separate the school and lawsuit issues.
"There's nowhere else we can put this school," DeNiro said.
An extra set of stairs means more injuries to pupils and makes evacuations harder, said Clarence Boles, who leads the school board's legal committee.
James E. Fortune Sr., D-6th, a council education committee member, is optimistic based on McNally's assessment.
"I think we can come to a resolution here," Fortune said. "I don't see council balking."
But council needs full information before it decides, he said. McNally is arranging for the city's Cleveland-based lawyers on the lawsuit to review the potential settlement with council members, probably next week.
Also, the education committee will ask the full council to support $10,000 in future funding for a teen court in the schools.
The program is about a year away from starting. Funding commitments are needed now, however, for the estimated $50,000 budget, said council President John R. Swierz.

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