By Harold Gwin
Officials said the cuts should be sufficient to eliminate the district’s budget deficit.
YOUNGSTOWN — Personnel cuts across the board as well as some school closings and other changes will help the city school district trim some $5.5 million in spending in 2009-10.
Those spending reductions, coupled with the passage of a 9.5-mill, four-year tax levy last fall, should be enough to wipe out the district’s ongoing budget deficit, said Treasurer William Johnson.
Youngstown has been in state-declared fiscal emergency since November 2006 after school officials announced the 2006-07 general fund budget would end up in the red.
The state set up a fiscal oversight commission to oversee and control district finances until Youngstown returns to fiscal solvency.
The district cut some $26 million in spending since then, eliminating 450 jobs in the process, but Superintendent Wendy Webb said that hasn’t been sufficient to fix the deficit.
She had initially talked about putting together $3 million in spending cuts for next fiscal year but instead unveiled plans for $5.5 million in cuts during a meeting of the oversight commission Thursday.
Johnson said that although there are a lot of variables that could affect district finances, particularly the level of state aid, the new cuts will be enough to get Youngstown out of the red.
The district borrowed some $25 million from the state in the form of solvency loans to balance its 2007-07 and 2007-08 budgets and will need to borrow about $3.5 million more from the state before the end of this fiscal year June 30, Johnson said. The latest loan will be on top of a plan for the district to borrow $5.2 million from its own construction bond fund to end this year in the black.
With the new cuts, the district won’t have to borrow any money next year, and there will be sufficient funds to pay on the state debt as well as begin repaying the loan from the bond fund, Johnson said.
Youngstown still owes $5.2 million of the original $25 million in state loans, and that will be repaid next fiscal year. If it borrows an additional $3.5 million this year, that debt will be repaid over the next two years.
“This is the kind of number we were looking for,” said Roger Nehls, chairman of the oversight commission, responding to the plan unveiled by Webb.
It’s a major step in the district’s effort to emerge from fiscal emergency, he said.
Webb said four administrative posts will be cut and 20 teaching positions will be eliminated, primarily through retirements and resignations, because of declining enrollment.
There could be some teacher layoffs if the number retiring and resigning doesn’t reach 20, she said. There will also be cuts in the maintenance, skilled trades, clerical and security staffs, she said.
That doesn’t mean the end of all cutbacks, Webb said, noting that the district must remain diligent in controlling its costs.
Nehls suggested that the process of reducing the district to correspond to declining enrollment should be an annual process.