City cuts budget deficit to $2.5M

Park programs bear the brunt of reductions that net $1 million in savings; city courts could be next.

By Harold Gwin

YOUNGSTOWN — The city’s projected $3.5 million general fund deficit for 2010 is now down to $2.5 million.

That’s the new figure presented to city council’s Finance Committee Monday by Mayor Jay Williams and David Bozanich, city finance director.

Williams said the administration was able to trim the deficit through a series of spending cuts and revenue enhancements.

The additional revenue will come from the V&M Star Steel construction project to the tune of about $250,000 this year, Bozanich told the committee.

Williams said every department under his control has been trimmed to 2009 spending levels or below, but the big cut comes in parks and recreation. The general fund allocation of $600,000 to $700,000 for the department from the general fund has been eliminated, as has a $350,000 allocation from the city’s Community Development Agency, the mayor said.

The city is still looking to form partnerships with private entities, preferably nonprofit groups or organizations, to provide summer playground programming as well as run the Stambaugh Golf Course and the North Side Pool. Borts Pool on the West Side likely won’t open this summer, he said.

City parks and playgrounds will be open this summer, he said, telling the committee that the administration intends to have some details on its summer partnership plan to present to council before final passage of the budget, which must occur no later than March 31.

The cuts leave the administration and city council looking for ways to trim $2,529,908 from a general fund budget of $37,337,352, Bozanich said.

“That’s the problem that’s facing this group right now,” he said, noting that the administration will have some suggestions to make to council as it begins its budget hearings.

Williams declined to reveal what those suggestions might be, saying he preferred to wait until the presentation.

He did, however, tell the committee that the municipal courts could be one source for substantial savings.

The legislative and administrative branches of city government need to work together to persuade the judicial branch to trim its budget by $500,000 to $600,000, Williams said.

“I don’t want this to be adversarial,” he said, explaining that he prefers to approach the courts in a cooperative fashion.

The city is already in a battle with the courts over the courts’ request for larger and more secure facilities. There is also a pending study on the advisability of consolidating the city and county courts.

Jamael Tito Brown, Finance Committee chairman, said council will review the documents presented to the committee and then schedule budget hearings.

Youngstown has had a structural deficit for years, Williams said. Efforts have been made to trim operating costs through the elimination of jobs and consolidations of operations, but, without cutting to the point of shutting down, the city will walk a budget tightrope this year, he said.

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