Youngstown wants to spend about $7M for projects, equipment

Published: Wed, March 13, 2013 @ 12:04 a.m.

By David Skolnick


The city is using three revenue sources — lease revenue from V&M Star, state gambling casino tax funds and savings from employee early-retirement buyouts — to pay for several capital-improvement projects and equipment purchases.

After discussions with city council, administration officials compiled a list of about $7 million worth of projects and equipment purchases.

Council will consider approving the list, and the 2013 city budget, at its meeting next Wednesday.

City officials provided the list Tuesday to The Vindicator.

As for a 2013 budget, that should be finished by Friday, five days before council’s expected vote.

Council has had budget hearings with department officials since mid-January and concluded them two days ago without seeing a complete city budget. Council will meet Monday or Tuesday to go over the budget.

The big-ticket item on the list is $1.2 million for new elevators at the city-owned 20 Federal Place office building.

Mayor Charles Sammarone had planned elevator improvements at the downtown building, but not all at once.

Sammarone received a letter last July from VXI Global Solutions, a call center on the building’s fourth and fifth floors and its largest tenant, stating that deals signed with the company in 2009 and 2010, before Sammarone was mayor, required the city to make the elevator improvements immediately.

Also, those deals required the city to replace windows on the company’s two floors.

That work, estimated to cost $275,000, also will be paid with money from those three revenue sources.

City officials have spent the past few months trying to determine how it would spend the V&M money, more than $8.5 million paid evenly over a three-year period.

Sammarone and Finance Director David Bozanich, who are leaving their current posts at the end of this year, will let the incoming administration decide what to do with the V&M money the city will receive in 2014 and 2015.

The goal for the $2,857,935 the city received for this year is economic development, infrastructure improvements and residential demolitions, the two have said.

The V&M payments are one-shot revenues for three years, so it won’t be used for new hires or salary increases as that money will dry out by the end of 2015, the two say.

“This is the first time we’ve had this amount of money for capital expenditures” in several years, Bozanich said. “Everything on this list provides a direct public benefit.”

The projects need to be done and equipment replaced, Sammarone said. “It’s long overdue,” he said.

The plan is to also use casino taxes, about $1 million this year, and savings from a city employee early-retirement buyout, about $2.5 million to $3 million in 2013, for infrastructure improvements and needed equipment purchases.

There is also about a $600,000 to $650,000 carry-over from the 2012 budget that is earmarked for these items, Bozanich said.

“We want to spend this money wisely on these much-needed capital improvements,” said Kyle Miasek, deputy finance director. “We may not have these resources in the future.”

The budget includes $840,180 for residential demolitions.

That’s the city’s share for the $1 million it received last year from an attorney-general program for housing demolition.

The city also wants to spend $174,460 for equipment needed by the street department for its employees to demolish vacant houses.

The street department averages about four to five housing demolitions a week, Sammarone said.

But the equipment used is old and constantly breaks down, so only about 80 percent of the planned work is getting done, Bozanich said.

The city also plans to buy two snowplow trucks, about $140,000 each, for the street department.

The last time the city bought snowplows was in 1992, Miasek said.

The city also is budgeting more than $1 million for business-development projects.

Another concern is the city’s income-tax collection.

The city received $42,471,700 in income tax last year. It had collected $43,948,900 the prior year, and fell about $2.4 million short of its projected $44.9 million collection for 2012.

In January, Bozanich said he expected the city to receive about $43.3 million to $43.8 million this year.

But with collections flat this year, and some job declines including the closure next year of a postal service mail- processing center in the city that employs 165 people, that anticipated tax- collection number is $42,475,000, he said.

The city receives income-tax revenue from a 2.75 percent tax it imposes on those who work and/or live in the city and a 2.75 percent profit tax paid by companies.

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