By Harold Gwin
The city school board, citing uncertainty over district finances, has rejected proposed contracts with its American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union workers and its crafts unions employees.
The 295 AFSCME workers (secretaries, food- service workers, custodians) and seven or eight crafts people (plumbers, electricians, carpenters) had earlier ratified the two-year agreements that called for 1 percent pay raises each year.
Anthony Catale said the board was under a time constraint under Ohio public employee bargaining law that required a vote on the pacts this week.
It’s not that the board is extremely displeased with the contract terms, it’s that the board is uncertain of the status of district finances, he said.
Youngstown spending is under the control of a state fiscal-oversight commission, which last month advised the district that its five-year financial forecast was too sunny, Catale said.
Earlier this week, a state Academic Distress Commission appointed to lead Youngstown out of academic emergency proposed an academic recovery plan with a $3.2 million annual price tag.
With the fiscal oversight commission telling the district to pull back on its financial forecast and the Academic Distress Commission needing district money for the recovery plan, the school board is unwilling to commit to spending any money at this time, Catale said.
He has asked for a board meeting with both commissions so the district can get a handle on what specific fund sources must be tapped for the academic recovery plan and just how far back the fiscal forecast should be cut to reflect possible reductions in state funding aid.
The contracts will basically be placed on hold until those issues are resolved, he said.
Meanwhile employees will continue working under terms of an extension of their old agreements which technically expired in February.
Both employee groups are coming off of four years of wage freezes, with only a handful of AFSCME employees getting annual pay increases over that time as they move through a salary-step schedule toward the top of their pay scale.
Charles Pulice, president of AFSCME Local 1143, declined to comment on the board’s action.