Youngstown schools deficit more than 15M
The district expects to get an advance on its state subsidy to cover the deficit.
By HAROLD GWIN
VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- The good news for the Youngstown City Schools is that the final size of its 2006-07 year-end budget deficit is 1.4 million less than anticipated.
The bad news is that it's still 15,025,000.
That's the official number certified Thursday by the Ohio auditor.
The Youngstown Board of Education, meeting in special session, immediately passed a resolution asking the state for help in that amount from the Solvency Assistance Fund so it can avoid ending the year June 30 in the red.
It's not a loan but an advance on future state educational subsidy funds. The state will take its money back through monthly deductions from subsidy payments over the next two years.
The school board held its meeting in conjunction with the state-appointed Financial Planning and Supervision Commission, which has been overseeing district finances over the past several months. The state put Youngstown into its fiscal emergency category in November after the district predicted it would run a deficit this year.
The commission also passed a resolution asking that the state grant the solvency assistance to the district.
The two bodies had expected the final deficit number to be just over 16.4 million.
Factors leading to deficit
School board member Lock P. Beachum Sr. asked Carolyn Funk, district treasurer, what factors led to the deficit situation.
Funk said there were three major factors -- the rapid proliferation of charter schools that are pulling thousands of children and 26 million a year in annual tuition payments out of the city schools, a district failure to respond quickly to declining enrollments by cutting staff and negotiating a minimum teacher complement (now at 740) that didn't take into account the rapid drop in enrollment.
City resident Tom Anderson, a vocal advocate for the city schools, told the commission that he thinks the board and Dr. Wendy Webb, superintendent, are doing "a commendable job" with the schools.
He called on the state to address an inequity in how money is taken from the city schools to pay the tuition of city children attending charter schools.
Youngstown gets only 3,900 per pupil per year from the state but has to pay out 5,100 for each child who goes to a charter school, he said.
The district will forever be under state control unless that problem is corrected, Anderson said.
Michael Write, school board president, said the district's fiscal recovery plan is already "pretty much" in place.
Key components include 6.3 million in salary and fringe benefit cost cuts made this year by eliminating 97 jobs and the proposed 9.6 million reduction in spending next year with the elimination of 140 additional jobs.
The oversight commission has also directed that the school board go to the taxpayers by November for approval of some form of bond issue to help fund operations.
Webb said the district needs to demonstrate that it can reduce its costs and shrink the district to the size it should be before going to the voters for additional support.
The board failed to win voter support for a 9.5-mill levy last fall.