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Council objects to city school levy



Published: Thu, October 19, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



Those voting against supporting the levy say the millage is too high.

By DAVID SKOLNICK

CITY HALL REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- City council failed to approve a resolution urging voters to pass a 9.5-mill city school levy on the Nov. 7 ballot.

A Wednesday vote on the resolution ended in a 3-3 tie.

The resolution will be reconsidered at council's next meeting, Nov. 1, six days before Election Day.

Those voting against supporting the school levy to pay for operating expenses and ongoing permanent improvements say citizens of their wards told them the millage is too high. The county elections board says the levy will raise about 5.8 million a year for five years.

"It's just too much," said Councilman Mark Memmer, D-7th. "I don't support any new taxes. People tell me taxes are too high."

Councilman Michael Rapovy, D-5th, says the school district does a poor job of educating kids with the money it already has.

"I commend the Youngstown teachers, but the teachers are there to teach and not to baby-sit our kids," he said.

Councilman Paul Pancoe, D-6th, said the people he's spoken to in his ward about the school tax issue don't favor it.

New East High

An electrician, Pancoe is working on the new East High School. The construction of the school is poorly designed with high ceilings that will force the school district to waste money to heat the building, Pancoe said.

Also, Pancoe, who sends his kids to a Catholic school, said he can't support a school system that doesn't talk about God and Jesus.

Councilwoman Carol Rimedio-Righetti, D-4th, didn't attend Wednesday's council meeting to break the tie.

The councilmen who voted to support the school levy said they did so because the money is needed. Also, they say, the district is making academic improvements and without the money, the school system would take a major step back.

"It's asinine to -- at this point after new schools are built -- not give the school district the funds to operate them," said Councilman Rufus Hudson, D-2nd.

Councilman Artis Gillam Sr., D-1st, said every council member has to follow the lead of his constituents.

"My constituents are 100 percent for the levy," he said. "They understand the need and see the improvements this school district is making and want that to continue."

Councilman Richard Atkinson, R-3rd, said the school district is moving in the right direction and passing the levy is vital.

"We can't punish the kids," he said.

Surprising vote

Tom Anderson, a member of the levy committee who spoke at Wednesday's council meeting before the vote, said he was surprised by the 3-3 vote.

"It looks like we have to do a better job of selling our levy to the citizens," he said.

Reached by telephone after the vote, Michael Write, school board president, said a majority of people he speaks to are in favor of the levy.

"I would have liked the vote to come out a little more favorable, but that's out of my control," he said.

Also Wednesday, council approved legislation to waive water and sewer tap-in fees for the Youngstown Technology Center, about to be constructed on West Federal Street, and signed a five-year lease with the Youngstown Business Incubator, also on West Federal, to use a nearby parking lot for 100 a year. The original proposal called for a 25-year lease, but some council members said that was too many years.

Council permitted Terry Esarco of East Midlothian Boulevard to speak at Wednesday's meeting. Council voted Sept. 20 to not permit him to address them at the Oct. 4 meeting with those in opposition saying Esarco would have only negative comments.

In his comments Wednesday, Esarco said he isn't negative, but has questions about the city that he wants answered. He also criticized council members for not talking enough to city residents about issues such as crime and gang violence, and businesses leaving.

skolnick@vindy.com




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