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Agency offers to rescue city pool, youth programs

Tuesday, May 25, 2010



A nonprofit organization is willing to provide about $300,000 in state funds to allow the cash-strapped city to open its North Side Pool and continue to provide summer youth recreation programs.

Jason Whitehead, director of the park and recreation commission and the mayor’s chief of staff, told The Vindicator on Monday that the Mahoning-Youngstown Community Action Partnership has agreed to use state money it receives for the pool and the programs.

Wilma Torres, MYCAP’s director of planning and placement, said the organization is waiting for the city to submit a plan, expected by Friday. The proposal would need state approval, she said. She declined further comment.

If all goes well, Whitehead said the pool would open and the programs would begin June 16 and run to Aug. 11.

Facing a budget shortfall, the city eliminated funding for its pools — Borts Pool on the West Side will not open this year — and youth programs. City officials were looking for an agency to provide money for the pool and the programs, and came to a tentative deal last week with MYCAP, which offers programs and services to low-income people.

Whitehead said he was surprised by the amount of money MYCAP is willing to provide to fund the pool operations and summer programs — including the salaries of eight city workers laid off last year and 17 to 20 summer lifeguards. A classified ad seeking to hire lifeguards will appear in The Vindicator later this week.

The 2010 budget approved by city council includes a $2 million shortfall in revenues in comparison to expenditures.

To make up that money, city officials had expected tax revenues to increase by $1 million, to save about $500,000 in employee attrition and, if need be, sell and lease some city assets to raise up to $1,375,000.

The most-recent tax revenues show no increase from the originally-projected amount, said city Finance Director David Bozanich.

He said he hopes summer tax collections will improve.

If they don’t pick up, the city will have to make some tough financial decisions by the end of September, Bozanich said.

The city would consider selling assets, including undeveloped brownfield properties, he said. Also, the city would consider “funding alternatives,” Bozanich said.

In the past, Bozanich said one of those alternatives would be taking a lump-sum payment from AT&T, which leases a city-owned building on Salt Springs Road near Meridian Road, rather than collect rent. The current deal calls for AT&T to pay $4.5 million rent over 10 years; the contract started in June 2008.

Even if a deficit occurs, layoffs are highly unlikely, Bozanich said, particularly because about 15 of the city’s most senior police officers will leave the force by March 31, 2011, through a state early-retirement program. That would save the city about $2 million annually.