Council resists city’s $154M budget plan


Reduce the street department’s demolition budget by $100,000 and not transferring $137,000 in general-fund money for demolition. The city will still spend about $1 million this year on demolition — about $100,000 from the general fund and the rest from federal grants.

Not increase the paving budget by $165,000 as requested by council. The city will still spend about $1.1 million on paving.

Obtain $280,000 through the sale and lease of city assets.

Receive $300,000 from a $1-a-day tax on prisoners housed at the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center private prison. The city approved legislation last year enacting the fee, but the tax issue is tied up in court.

Cut its business-development fund by $80,000. The fund would drop to $120,000. The money primarily is used to pay for professional services related to state-funded demolition and improvement projects.

Accept $10,000 from council President Charles Sammarone. Each member of council annually receives $5,000 for travel expenses and another $5,000 in discretionary funding. The latter typically is used to provide money to local community organizations. Sammarone hasn’t used travel expenses in several years.

Source: Youngstown Finance Department

By David Skolnick

skolnick@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

The city’s administration gave council a balanced $154 million budget that makes up the proposed $377,000 state funding cut as well as $59,000 in increased security costs and the potential loss of $270,000 from a business deal.

But the proposal wasn’t met Monday with open arms by the council. Members heard the proposal but didn’t make a decision.

Council is going to have to make a decision to approve the city’s 2011 budget soon. By state law, the budget must be approved no later than Thursday, and there is a special council meeting Wednesday.

To balance the city’s general-fund budget — with a modest end-of-the-year $16,500 surplus — the administration proposed cuts and increased revenues that total $1,072,000.

“We offered recommendations to balance the budget,” Mayor Jay Williams said. “We keep hearing to make cuts in the administration. We’re making them. What about the two other branches of government? That’s where the frustration sets in.”

In response, council submitted a list of proposed cuts Monday to the administration that its members want to implement to make up the shortfall.

The cuts, council members say, also would provide enough money to hire a chief city planner, a park and recreation director, and increase the clerk of court’s budget by about $10,000.

The administration says there isn’t enough money available for the two hires and that the clerk of courts can properly operate on its $2 million budget without the extra $10,000.

“We’d like a city planner and a park and recreation director, but we can function without them for now,” Williams said.

Council proposes eliminating much of the $459,000 in the budget for management and nonunion employees overtime, reducing by 30 percent the $1.6 million the city administration budgeted for professional services, and reducing the number of take-home cars to city employees.

Council also wants overtime in other departments to be cut by 25 percent to 30 percent but backed away from reducing overtime for police, fire and street departments.

The administration always is looking to cut overtime and other cost-savings measures, Williams said.

The mayor added that only the executive branch makes and proposes cuts while city council and the city’s judiciary isn’t asked to make cuts and doesn’t face the same scrutiny.

“I should have a budget hearing with council and have council come before me and justify why it hasn’t reduced its budget,” Williams said.

Discussing cuts to the judicial and legislative branches are “political taboo,” Williams said. “I don’t see the same level of openness from the two other branches of government.”

Council members should have to “justify” the $10,000 each member receives annually — half for travel and the other half in “discretionary funding,” used to provide money to local organizations, Williams said.

Council President Charles Sammarone, who hasn’t used his travel money for years, agreed to give back all of his travel and discretionary money to help balance the budget.

When asked after Monday’s meeting by The Vindicator, Councilman Jamael Tito Brown, D-3rrd and finance committee chairman, said cuts to council members’ salaries, benefits, travel and discretionary funding were “on the table” for reductions.

Travel expenses would be the first item to be scrutinized, he said.

Council also proposed eliminating a $266,460 contract with DeVicchio & Associates to manage the city-owned 20 Federal Place office facility and have the work done in-house.

There aren’t city employees with the expertise to handle that job, Williams said.

Cuts are needed to make up the $377,000 the city is expected to lose from the Local Government Fund this year under the governor’s proposed budget.

Also, the administration included $270,000 in the budget that it expected would come from a Cafaro Co. subsidiary as part of an industrial project on the East Side.

But city council wants to hear more about the proposal before considering it so the additional money isn’t guaranteed.

Also, a change to replace Vector Security with a group of retired Youngstown police officers as well as current and retired law-enforcement officials will cost up to $59,000 more for a full year.

The new security team would begin May 2.

The administration also recommended not increasing the paving budget by $16w5,000 as requested by council.

The administration had planned to make $239,500 this year in the sale of assets. Instead, the updated budget proposal included $280,000 in the sale and lease of city assets.

City officials declined to discuss specifics on the potential assets sales and leases except to say some would include industrial property.

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