Clock is ticking on Youngstown budget

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Youngstown leaders continued to hammer out the annual city budget Tuesday just days before it must be approved by law.

Some council members said they would like to have seen this budget proposal a little sooner. Budget hearings with department heads wrapped up March 4, but the proposal didn’t get into council members’ hands until late last week.

“We probably could be a little bit better in working in the fourth quarter of the year for the next year’s budget,” said 4th Ward Councilman Mike Ray.

But Sixth Ward Councilwoman and City Council Finance Committee Chair Janet Tarpley acknowledged having a new administration played a role in the delay.

Council must approve the 2014 budget by Monday. And with $171.5 million to work with, it’s tough to make every city department happy.

“But we are funding what we believe are the right things in the system, right amount of employees, right capital projects and the right equipment, so we think it’s a pretty good budget document,” said Youngstown Finance Director David Bozanich.

“If we can give it, we will,” Tarpley said.

There’s a list of 18 unfilled, or new hire, positions in the budget, with many in the street and water departments. It’s up to Mayor John McNally to decide which jobs to fill.

Those unfilled positions include two street department linemen at a salary of $39,098 each, and three street department laborers at a salary of $20,800 each, as well as four water distribution laborers at a salary of $29,848 each.

Two police department clerk positions will go from part-time to full-time and a civil service commission clerk’s position also will increase to full-time, according to a handout provided at Tuesday’s meeting.

The handout also notes that the police department will see an increase in patrol officers being hired to backfill retirements as well as new positions using a police hiring grant.

“There was almost, maybe not a hiring freeze, but there was a previous administration that held back on filling a lot of positions, so this is kind of restoring some of those things,” Ray said.

Several million dollars are set aside for capital improvements and matching fund requirements for projects around town.

Large economic development ventures, such as the Vallourec Star expansion, helped the budget balloon to $20 million more than it was in 2012. But it’s also the reason for a cut to the business development fund this year.

“We’re working on several others projects, so just because a little bit less funding is in those funds does not mean we’re not working as hard to get those things done,” Bozanich said.

A special meeting of council is set for Thursday afternoon to approve the 2014 budget before Monday’s deadline.

Seventh Ward Councilman John Swierz said he has been through more than a dozen rounds of budget talks, hearings and work sessions as a member of City Council and there have been years when council members have gotten the budget proposal the day before it had to be approved.

Swierz also said budgets are living, breathing documents, which means even if council passes a balanced budget this week, it can always be amended and adjusted by council throughout the year.

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