Published: Friday, December 14, 2007
Webb outlines fund cuts
The district is looking at trimming $4 million more in spending next year.
By HAROLD GWIN
YOUNGSTOWN The city school district has trimmed nearly $2.1 million during this school year, largely as a result of voters' turning down a 9.5-mill new operating levy in November.
Superintendent Dr. Wendy Webb outlined the reductions imposed in the $120 million general fund budget during a meeting Thursday of the state Financial Planning and Supervision Commission, which is overseeing district finances.
Youngstown is in state-determined fiscal emergency as the result of a $15 million budget deficit.
Webb said the immediate cuts included the elimination of one supervisory and six secretarial positions, reductions in health-care costs, re-evaluation of bus transportation routes, reduction in allocation to the worker's compensation reserve fund and various other changes.
Michael McNair, district spokesman, said that although the failure of the levy was a factor, it wasn't the only reason spending reductions are being made.
The district had already cut about $17 million in annual spending over the past two years but was aware more cuts would be coming, he said, pointing out that Webb has indicated all along that the district must continue to downsize.
In a related matter, the commission voted to support the city school board's plan to put a levy of the same amount on the ballot again in the March 4, 2008, election.
Webb also outlined a series of further proposed reductions for the oversight commission, showing about $4 million in reduced annual spending starting in the 2008-09 school year which begins next July 1.
She made it clear that the proposals are only possibilities being examined by the district at this point.
Nothing is carved in stone, she told the commission.
That list includes the merger of the Alpha and Athena gender schools for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders into a single building.
The gender separation would be maintained, Webb said, perhaps by keeping boys on one floor and girls on another, but there would be substantial energy savings by closing one of the two old buildings now housing those schools.
Each building now has two principals and that could be reduced to one principal for Alpha and one for Athena in a single building, she said.
Reducing the number of trades employees (plumbers, electricians, painters and carpenters) from 15 to eight is another targeted area, although Lamont Stevens, a spokesman for that group, told the oversight commission that the affected workers question whether the move would save the district any money.
There would be a great deal more reliance on hiring outside contractors to do work, Stevens said, pointing out that district employees cost about $34 an hour with fringe benefits, but outside contractors charge between $70 and $135 an hour plus expenses.
Webb said the district is still looking at possibly closing and selling the Irene Ward central administration building at 20 W. Wood St., or perhaps renting out part of it as private office space.
The Odyssey: School of Possibilities could be moved from its location in an old building on Commonwealth Avenue into another building. It would be kept separate as a "school within a school," she said, explaining that children in Odyssey are generally unable to function well in a traditional school setting.
Eliminating five administrative positions, including some central office personnel, downsizing the district's warehouse and closing its bus garage are other areas of potential significant savings, she said.