By David Skolnick
The city’s proposed $171.5 million budget includes $4.8 million in capital-improvement projects and equipment purchases.
Several departments — including police, fire, park and recreation, and wastewater — reduced their expenditures in 2014 compared with the previous year.
But the city budget calls for spending $3.7 million more this year than in 2013.
One reason for the larger budget — it was $167.8 million last year — is $4.5 million the city receives in tax-increment financing for Vallourec Star’s $1.1 billion expansion plant, said Finance Director David Bozanich.
Vallourec makes property-tax payments and then has 75 percent of it refunded with the other 25 percent going to the Girard school district. The mill is in Youngstown with most of the land originally in Girard and the latter city’s school district receiving property taxes.
That $4.5 million is treated as revenue and an expenditure, which increases the city budget, Bozanich said.
The city also received $2.9 million this year from Vallourec for land the company leased for the expansion. The city received the same amount from the company last year and will get it for a final time in 2015.
The city is using the money for various capital-improvement projects including three street trucks, the new fire station on the South Side, four police cars, and major improvements including a new air-conditioning system and elevators at the city-owned 20 Federal Place office building.
“We’ll continue to fund our priorities,” Bozanich said.
City council has to approve the budget by March 31. Council will meet at 5 p.m. Tuesday for a work session on the budget. As of Thursday, council had not scheduled a meeting to vote on the budget.
Some council members expressed frustration recently about the long-standing process in which they conduct public hearings on the budget without having the complete document. That’s usually followed by a quick vote to get the budget approved by March 31.
It wasn’t until Thursday that the proposed budget documents were sent to all council members.
Among the biggest financial cuts in this year’s budget is for business development, going from $12 million in 2013 to $7.7 million this year.
Again, Vallourec Star plays a huge role in that decline, Bozanich said.
The city used the business-development fund from which to allocate local, state and federal dollars for the company’s expansion project, he said. The project is finished, so that fund declined this year, Bozanich said.
About $2.6 million of this year’s business-development fund will be used as matching funding for projects — including paying for last year’s demolition of the former Paramount Theatre and this year’s demolition of the Wean United Building as well as road and bridge improvements — that receive state and federal grants, Bozanich said.
“We’ve been unable to match grants, even matches of 10 to 20 percent, over the years because of a lack of money,” he said. “We’ve left money on the table because of that. But we will have that money set aside to pay for those local matches.”
The city employs about 740 and plans to add a few jobs this year, said Kyle Miasek, deputy finance director.
The city has money in the budget to hire three for its traffic/sign department and a health department worker, he said. The traffic/sign department usually has six employees and currently is down to one.
Also, the police department received federal grants to pay for two or three new patrol officers, while it also will have two police captains retire who will not be replaced in 2014, Miasek said.
The general fund would see a small increase in expenditures from $41 million last year to $41.7 million in 2014 if council approves it.
The planning department’s budget is being increased from $244,078 in 2013 to $331,079 this year largely because of a contract the city signed with the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp. to serve as the municipality’s planning agency.
There’s also an increase in the streetlights budget from $1,316,500 last year to $1,437,500 in 2014, and the clerk of courts budget is going from $1,949,645 last year to $2,048,236 this year.
The city fund seeing the largest increase is the water department, going from $33.5 million last year to $37.1 million this year.
About $2.1 million of that increase is going toward various capital-improvement projects including site paving to finish the West Avenue water department garage project, painting the West Side water tank, and waterline replacement work, said water Commissioner Harry L. Johnson III.
The department also will make a $400,000 loan payment this year for the garage project and will spend $400,000 to buy water meters that are in compliance with new federal mandates, he said.