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YOUNGSTOWN Officials face a shortfall, plan layoffs



Published: Tue, July 16, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The city hopes to minimize the number of cuts in the police and fire departments.

By DAVID SKOLNICK

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Layoff notices to city employees will be delivered beginning next week, and the number of people losing their jobs is probably going to be higher than originally anticipated.

"We are looking at the first or second week of August for some people" to work their last day for the city, said David Bozanich, the city's financial director.

Others will be laid off through August, depending on how much notice the city is required to give them for termination under their union contracts.

The city is anticipating a $2.5 million shortfall in its budget by 2003, Bozanich said.

Determining cuts

The city has not determined how many jobs will be cut, but should have a number shortly, Bozanich said.

City officials had previously mentioned that at least 40 people would be laid off, but that number is expected to be higher.

With each employee costing the city about $40,000 to $50,000 annually in salary and benefits, that would mean 50 to 60 workers would lose their jobs.

The city last month accepted the voluntary retirements of 46 workers, each of whom received $10,000 incentives to leave their jobs early. That saved the city $300,000 this year, Bozanich said.

But the number of those taking the early retirement buyout was not enough to get rid of the city's projected shortfall. Also, some of the vacancies need to be filled, Bozanich said.

The city wants to minimize the number of layoffs in its police and fire departments, Bozanich said. The plan is to have the reduction in staff in nonsafety departments be 20 percent higher than those in the police and fire departments when the buyouts and layoffs are combined, Bozanich said.

Financial difficulties

Mayor George M. McKelvey, who has hired about 100 firefighters and police officers during his 51/2 years running the city, said laying off workers is among his most disliked responsibilities.

"It's not a happy day for me to lay off even one employee," he said. "But with salary and benefits making up 80 [percent] to 90 percent of our budget, we can't cut enough paper, pencils and equipment to make a difference. We can't ignore this and hope it goes away. We are in very stormy financial waters."

The city's financial shortfall was caused by declining tax revenues.

"It's a very, very serious situation and an unfortunate reality," McKelvey said.

The city is developing its financial outlook through 2003 with the thought that its other revenues and expenditures will remain constant, Bozanich said.

"We're hoping the economy stays on an even keel," he said. "From an economics perspective, the economy has bottomed out."

Or has it?

The city will lose about $200,000 in income tax annually because of the anticipated layoff by Phar-Mor of 181 its employees who work in the company's downtown office.

The city hopes to make up some of that money and any other unexpected shortfalls through the sale of some of its assets, including the Ameritech Center on Salt Springs Road and the Wick Building downtown, Bozanich said.

skolnick@vindy.com




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