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SPENDING SHIFT CDA plan headed for council vote



Published: Tue, April 19, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



A special committee will 'tweak' the community development budget.

By DAVID SKOLNICK

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- City council will vote Wednesday on a $5.26 million community developm1ent budget that could drastically reduce or eliminate funds it has given to city departments for years.

Council's community development committee recommended a budget March 24 that takes thousands of dollars away from departments such as public works, street and fire.

But Councilman Richard Atkinson, the committee chairman, said he expects some changes would be made to the budget at a Wednesday committee meeting. That meeting will be held right before a council meeting. On the council agenda for Wednesday is the adoption of the city's CDA budget.

"We'll tweak it," said Atkinson, R-3rd. "There will probably be some changes. Some members of council have some concerns, but I don't know about changes until we meet. There could be some flexibility and movement."

No big changes expected

Jay Williams, the city's CDA director, doesn't anticipate council making significant changes to the proposed budget the committee approved last month.

Six of the city's seven council members attended that meeting, and all insisted that community development agency money be steered away from departments.

The council members want to use the CDA money for housing rehabilitation and rent credit for low- and moderate-income residents, and for the demolition of abandoned and dilapidated buildings.

Taking the biggest hit under the recommended budget is the public works department.

The CDA has traditionally paid the salaries of the department's code enforcement officers, but the committee recommended council remove the entire $325,000 budgeted to pay for those officers, and have the department finance those costs through the city's general fund.

Carmen Conglose Jr., the city's deputy director of public works, said he hopes council will reconsider the cut.

The city's CDA fund has provided money for code enforcement officers for years, and there is no money in the general fund to pay them Conglose said.

"If the CDA money is not there, my impression is there would likely be some cuts," he said. "Having code enforcement officers is important to the CDA mission."

Symphony cut restored

A $40,000 cut recommended last month to the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra will be reinstated.

The committee withdrew the $40,000 cut last month at the request of Councilman Artis Gillam Sr., D-1st, who had questions about the symphony's decision to not renew the contract of its music director. After a meeting with symphony officials, Gillam agreed to restore the funding.

The federal Community Development Block Grant funds the city's entire $5.26 million CDA fund. Like other cities with declining populations, Youngstown has seen its block grant allocation shrink over the years. Block grant amounts are based on population.

The city received about $7 million a few years ago for the program, which is supposed to provide assistance for low- and moderate-income residents.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which administers the block grant program, needs the city's CDA budget by May 15, Williams said.

skolnick@vindy.com




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