Youngstown council questions lights, jazz fest, neighborhood proposals in budget
By David Skolnick
With the city’s $171.5 million budget proposal finally in their hands, members of city council asked questions about increasing funding for more Christmas lights, the downtown jazz festival and improving neighborhoods.
Council members met with department heads at budget hearings that ended March 4 to discuss funding and project priorities.
But council members had those meetings without the $171.5 million budget proposed by the administration.
It wasn’t until last Thursday that all members of council had that budget proposal, and they met Tuesday to discuss it.
Finance Director David Bozanich and Deputy Finance Director Kyle Miasek discussed potential new employees at Tuesday’s meeting. That was in response to a request last week from Councilman T.J. Rodgers, D-2nd.
There are 18 positions — 16 unfilled and two new ones — in the city’s budget.
Not all of them will be filled as that’s the call of Mayor John A. McNally, Bozanich said.
“In general, it’s a pretty good document with funding for programs, local matches [for grants], equipment and internal demolition work,” Bozanich said. “Although not a perfect budget, it’s a pretty good budget.”
Councilwoman Annie Gillam, D-1st, said more money should be used for downtown Christmas decorations. Gillam and Councilwoman Janet Tarpley, D-6th, also said there should be enough money for the downtown jazz festival.
Most council members at Tuesday’s hourlong meeting to discuss the budget said they were satisfied with the spending package and would vote in favor of it.
The city must approve a budget by Monday, according to city statutes.
Council will meet at 4:45 p.m. Thursday to vote on passing the city’s $171.5 million budget. That will be the only item on the meeting’s agenda.
That meeting shouldn’t take long, members said, as a council safety committee meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. that day.
The budget proposal includes $4.8 million in capital-improvement projects and equipment purchases.
About $2.6 million from the business-development fund will be used as matching local funding for projects that receive state and federal grants.
Tarpley said she was “really concerned about [providing] help in the neighborhoods.”
Bozanich said the equipment purchases and money for street improvements will help the neighborhoods.
“We significantly cut economic development to do more in the neighborhoods,” he said.
The business-development budget is going from $12 million last year to $7.7 million this year.
But that cut is largely because the fund was used to allocate local, state and federal dollars for Vallourec Star’s $1.1 billion expansion project.
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 expansion, Bozanich said.
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 facility is in Youngstown with most of the land originally in Girard, and the latter city’s school district receives property taxes.
That $4.5 million is treated as revenue and an expenditure, which increases the city budget, Bozanich said.