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YOUNGSTOWN SCHOOLS Building cuts will cost a year


Published: Wed, March 1, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.


A declining enrollment is responsible for the reduction in the scope of the projects.
By HAROLD GWIN
VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Reducing the size of five buildings in the city school district's $202 million rebuilding program will push construction schedules back one year.
A declining pupil enrollment has prompted the Ohio School Facilities Commission to insist that Youngstown eliminate one new building from the program and reduce the scope of five others remaining on the list.
The board announced in February that the Mary Haddow Elementary School won't be replaced.
On Tuesday, Steve Ludwinski of Heery/Amec/G. Stephens, project architect, said the redesign of the remaining five individual building replacement projects will push back the construction timetable.
"We're going to lose about a year," he told the school board, explaining that all of the buildings have to go through various levels of redesign to comply with the smaller sizes stipulated by the state.
The schools on the list are North and Bunn elementary schools, Volney-Rogers Middle School and Wilson and Rayen high schools.
Pupils lost
Youngstown has lost about 3,000 pupils over the past several years to charter schools and open enrollment in other districts, and the state, which is picking up about 80 percent of the rebuilding program cost, projects a loss of 400 more next school year.
School board member Lock P. Beachum Sr. expressed concern that a delay in starting the remaining five buildings will result in higher construction costs, and Ludwinski said that is a possibility.
Efforts are being made to get the design work completed as quickly as possible, but construction will still be delayed a year, he said.
The five buildings had an original cost estimate totaling $62 million.
In other matters, the school board voted to ratify a one-year "successor agreement" with the 800-member Youngstown Education Association, essentially continuing the terms of the existing contract for another year, ending June 30, 2007.
The old contract expires June 30 of this year, and negotiations were to start soon on a new pact. However, the city school district is facing a $4 million year-end deficit, and, by law, can't negotiate a new contract because it can't certify that it will have the funds available to pay for any raises.
The teachers are expected to consider the successor agreement Monday.
It freezes the salary schedule at current levels, but that doesn't mean about half of the district's teachers won't be getting some raise next year.
Around 400 teachers are at various steps in the district's 16-step salary schedule and are entitled to automatic wage increases as they move up those steps.
Carolyn Funk, district treasurer, estimated the successor agreement will cost the district about $231,000 more next year, bringing the total teacher salary cost to nearly $46.5 million.
That number could change substantially, depending on what staff reductions the district makes for next year, Funk said, referring to a plan being drafted by Superintendent Wendy Webb to cut costs.
Webb has said there will be "across-the-board" cutbacks but she hasn't put a number on any layoffs yet, noting that will be determined by how many employees decide to retire at the end of this year.
gwin@vindy.com


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