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STATE BUDGET Taft's plan for cuts has cities worried



Published: Tue, February 15, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The governor wants to cut funding to cities by 20 percent.

YOUNGSTOWN -- Youngstown and Warren officials say cuts in state funding planned for next year will force them to lay off employees.

David Bozanich, Youngstown's finance director, said a reduction of about $479,000 to the city from the state's Local Government Fund would cause financial harm.

Warren Mayor Michael O'Brien said that if the proposal is implemented, he'd be forced to lay off three police officers and three firefighters to make up a shortfall of about $400,000.

State of the State

Gov. Bob Taft announced during last week's State of the State Address that he wants the Ohio Legislature to approve a proposal to cut LGF money by $1.1 billion in 2006 and by $1 billion in 2007 to help balance the state's budget.

Taft's plan calls for a 20 percent annual cut in LGF money to cities and counties, a 10 percent reduction for villages and townships, and a 5 percent reduction for libraries -- all effective next year.

The LGF money comes from the state's personal income, and business and utility taxes. The state hasn't increased the payments to the local government fund since 2002.

The state Legislature has to approve Taft's proposed LGF reduction. Taft must sign the budget bill by June 30.

LGF is one of the top 10 largest funding sources for Youngstown, Warren and many other cities in the state, Bozanich and O'Brien said.

'That means people'

"We won't be able to make it up in revenue so we'd have to look at reducing our costs, and that means people," Bozanich said.

Youngstown is in a tight financial spot, ending 2004 with a $250,000 surplus, he said.

A cut in 2006 of $479,000, Bozanich said, "would put us at break-even or in the red, and then we'd have to look at cuts and layoffs. It would be a contributing factor to financial problems for the city."

It's bad in Warren too, O'Brien said.

The city ended 2004 with a $2 million surplus, but all of that money was included in the 2005 budget to offset projected shortfalls.

"The trickle-down consequence of this cut is disastrous for cities," O'Brien said. "This is catastrophic. We used all our carryover from last year, and we'll have no carryover at the end of this year. We're stretched to the limit now."

The cash-strapped counties of Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana would lose about $2.5 million annually combined if LGF money is cut by 20 percent.




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