Vindicator Logo

Schools may need $2M more in cuts

By Harold Gwin

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

By Harold Gwin

The Youngstown district has been in fiscal emergency since 2006.

YOUNGSTOWN — City school-board member Lock P. Beachum Sr. has repeated his call for additional spending cuts in the district to avoid reliance on an emergency tax levy that is due to expire in 2012-13.

Beachum, speaking at Tuesday’s school board meeting, was responding to a comment last week by the chairman of the state fiscal oversight commission that controls district spending. The chairman, Roger Nehls, said after hearing a report on the district’s five-year financial forecast that it seems likely the district will have to seek renewal of the 9.5-mill levy.

“It’s not apparent to me how else they will remain solvent,” Nehls said.

School-board members have said repeatedly that they don’t want to go back to the taxpayers with a levy-renewal request.

The district, placed in fiscal emergency by the state in November 2006, has cut $32 million in spending, eliminating about 520 jobs in the process, over the last three years.

Taxpayers approved the 9.5-mill levy last fall, and it is supposed to be producing about $5.3 million a year in new revenue to help with the district’s efforts to return to fiscal solvency.

The district is expected to end fiscal 2010-11 in the black, but with the levy ending, it could slip back into the red by fiscal 2014-15.

Beachum said the board has asked the treasurer and superintendent to come up with a plan for additional spending reductions next year to keep that from happening and to avoid asking taxpayers for additional tax revenue. A figure of $2 million is the target.

Superintendent Wendy Webb told the board that work on further reductions is being done with an eye on avoiding cuts that would directly affect academic programs.

A new wrinkle in the financial picture is the growing amount of property tax delinquencies, which now stand at $9 million, said Treasurer William Johnson. By law, the school district can’t go after those delinquencies on its own but must rely on the Mahoning County Treasurer’s office to pursue the debt.

The board has asked Johnson to contact the county treasurer to see what can be done to get those funds.

Beachum said he’s spoken with the treasurer, Lisa Antonini, who has indicated she is working on the problem.