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Proposed cuts would save $8.5M


Published: Wed, March 15, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.


A proposal for a new tax levy could be forthcoming as soon as November.
By HAROLD GWIN
VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Eliminating nearly 100 jobs, cutting back on supplies and intervention programs, and persuading some teachers to retire will save the city schools nearly $8.5 million in 2006-07.
But it won't be enough to offset a projected $11.7 million deficit.
School officials said the district may have to ask taxpayers to approve a new tax levy in November.
The cuts, proposed by the administration, were presented to the board of education Tuesday.
The board took no immediate action. The Rev. Michael Write, board president, said there are "still a lot of variables" that could affect the final version of the plan and it may be April before the board is ready to vote.
Superintendent Wendy Webb had said that any cuts would be made across the board and the plan she outlined reflected that.
It calls for the elimination of 56 of the district's 796 teaching positions, 21.5 of the district's 111 administrative posts and 18 of the 480 classified staff for a total projected salary savings of $6,283,241.
Webb said there will be some layoffs, although that number hasn't been determined as the district is anticipating at least 35 retirements, which would reduce the number of furloughs.
Levy proposal
Webb said in January that a tax levy would be inevitable at some point, and board member Lock P. Beachum Sr. said Tuesday that, based on the administration's presentation, the district might have to put a levy on the November ballot.
Just how large that tax proposal might be will be determined by the severity of the final deficit estimates, he added.
Putting a cutback plan together wasn't an easy thing to do, Webb said, stressing that the reductions will affect real people with families.
She said she believes the district will still have adequate staffing and be able to continue to advance academically. Youngstown can't lose sight of its most important mission -- improving the academic achievement of its children, she added.
A breakdown of the proposed staffing cuts shows six central office positions, three principal slots, 4.5 assistant principal spots and eight teacher-on-special-assignment positions being eliminated among the administrative ranks.
Among the classified staff, six custodial/helper posts would go along with three secretarial, seven educational assistant and two LPN positions.
Webb noted she won't fill the vacant posts of assistant superintendent, director of instruction and executive director of school improvements, all part of the 21.5 administrative reductions.
Additional cuts
Webb said an additional $1,439,837 in miscellaneous cuts are also being proposed. That includes $400,000 in extended day and summer school program reductions, $150,000 by converting the night school program to a cyber-school program, $507,539 in supplies and materials cuts, and about $400,000 more in building utility savings resulting from the closing of two schools and other programming cuts.
Finally, the plan calls for an incentive package to persuade teachers at retirement age to leave now.
The package offers the retirees $10,000 a year for three years but will net the district an estimated savings of $719,705 by replacing older teachers with new staff at the bottom of the pay scale, said Carolyn Funk, district treasurer.
All of the combined efforts would result in savings of $8,442,783 for next year, Webb said.
The district's general fund budget is about $110 million.
The school district, however, is facing a 2006-07 year-end deficit of $11.7 million, Funk said.
Other possibilities
Webb said the district is looking at additional cuts such as employee health-care premium sharing and reductions in transportation, but it is also seeking ways to boost revenue through grants and other sources.
There is no way the district can cover the entire projected deficit, she said, an indication that taxpayers may be asked to help.
Youngstown is facing a $4 million deficit this year and none of the above-mentioned cuts will impact that red ink. The district may be placed under state fiscal watch as a result, Funk has said.
gwin@vindy.com


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