District aims to pass tax levy

Even a 9.5-mill tax increase won’t be enough to wipe out the deficit.



YOUNGSTOWN — Residents of the Youngstown City School District are likely to be asked to approve the same size tax levy in November that they turned down eight months ago.

The Rev. Michael Write, president of the city school board, said it would be “very logical” to conclude that the board will have to come back to the voters for the same size tax increase in an effort to help rid the district of a $15 million budget deficit.

Voters turned down a 9.5-mill tax levy last November. One of those mills was to be set aside for permanent improvements with the rest going toward operating expenses.

The state placed the Youngstown schools under a fiscal emergency designation in November after the district announced it expected to run a general fund deficit in the 2006-07 fiscal year that ended Saturday.

That designation resulted in the state appointing a fiscal oversight commission to help direct the district’s financial recovery, and that commission has made it clear that it expects the school board to try again to get voters to approve a tax levy to boost revenues.

Considering options

One mill generates about $500,000 in revenue, so a 9.5-mill increase wouldn’t cover the entire $15 million deficit.

Philip Binkley, interim chairman of the Financial Planning and Supervision Commission, said the district may have to increase its revenue in pieces rather than try to cover it all with a single levy.

Write said the board isn’t interested in trying to persuade voters to approve a double digit tax levy.

“We’re still looking at different options,” he said, referring to how the levy should be structured [permanent improvement versus operating levy] and how much more money will be needed.

“We want to be very clear before we give it to the people,” Write said.

The commission has directed the school board to come up with a levy plan by the July 12 commission meeting.

Cutting costs

Write said the school board will meet that deadline and should have something ready for consideration at Tuesday’s regular school board meeting.

Binkley said school districts in fiscal emergency usually pursue a combination of spending cuts and increased revenue to get their budgets back into balance.

Youngstown cut nearly 100 jobs last year at a savings of about $8.5 million and cut 153 more this year, reducing spending by another $8.5 million.

School board members have said they need to show the public that cuts have been made and further reductions will occur before voters are asked for an increase in taxes.

Critics of the board have said the district is top heavy with administrators and central office cuts should be made before other staff reductions.

The district said it cut 30 administrative posts between last year’s and this year’s reductions. Cuts have also included nearly 150 teachers.


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