Youngstown city schools to go for levy again

The district hopes to couple spending cuts with the tax to balance its budget.



YOUNGSTOWN — The Youngstown Board of Education is again asking taxpayers to approve a 9.5-mill tax levy.

Voters turned down a 9.5-mill levy request in November 2006 by a 2,000-vote margin, but that was before the state declared Youngstown to be in fiscal emergency and appointed a fiscal oversight commission to direct district finances.

That commission has said the school board must try again to get taxpayers to boost revenues.

Youngstown ran a $15 million budget deficit this year.

The school board voted Tuesday to put another 9.5-mill operating levy on the ballot this November and passed a resolution in which the six board members present vowed to do all they could to get the levy passed.

Jamael Tito Brown, the seventh member, was absent from the meeting. Voting for the resolution were Jacqueline Taylor, Michael Write, Lock P. Beachum Sr., Dominic Modarelli, Kathryn Hawks Haney and Shelley Murray.

That levy would produce about $4.3 million in new revenue, not enough to eliminate the red ink.

Dr. Wendy Webb, superintendent, said further cuts in spending will be required, and she and Treasurer Carolyn Funk have appointed a small committee of people from outside the district to look at where additional reductions can be made.

Youngstown has already cut 250 jobs (including 150 teachers) and $17 million in spending a year in an attempt to deal with the deficit.

Webb said her plan is to couple further cuts with the new tax to balance the budget by 2012.

Teacher cuts undesirable

She said she hopes to avoid cutting any academic programs.

“We can’t continue cutting teachers,” Webb said, explaining that the committee will look at things like closing the central office building on Wood Street, closing the bus garage and perhaps combining a couple of schools.

Transportation itself wouldn’t be cut, she added.

The various potential cost-saving methods will be examined and a recommendation will be made to the school board in early September, she said.

The district’s budget is expected to remain fairly constant over the next five years, with revenues of about $104 million and expenditures of about $112 million.

The new tax, if approved, would cover half of the deficit, leaving the district to find about $4 million a year in spending cuts to balance the budget.

“We need to do a major overhaul that puts this district in line with projections,” Webb said.

Youngstown has just over 8,000 pupils this year, but the number is expected to drop to about 6,000 by 2012, according to Ohio Department of Education estimates.

“It’s hard to change, but we’ve got to,” Webb said, noting that it’s easier to grow a school district than to shrink one.

“I’m sure the community won’t be pleased with everything. I won’t be pleased with some things,” she said.

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