YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – On Thursday, Youngstown Mayor Tito Brown announced he is not going to repay the state’s money used for economic development projects, that doing so would put Youngstown in a dire financial situation that he will not allow.
The announcement comes one day after a meeting with city council in which most council members agreed with the mayor.
Ohio Auditor Keith Faber demanded that the city must repay $3.1 million over 15 years for money used from its water, wastewater and sanitation funds for highly visible downtown development projects.
“I wholeheartedly agree with his decision not to pay back or not basically succeed to what the auditor is saying,” said First Ward Councilman Julius Oliver.
“I definitely support what the mayor stated. His stance was firm but it was definitely warranted,” said Seventh Ward Councilwoman Basia Adamczak.
Brown said legal opinions provided to the city agreed that the payments were acceptable under Ohio law. But, the auditor disagreed without clear legal authority to support his position.
According to Brown, the city raised sound legal objections and proposed ways to resolve the dispute.
“Despite the city’s best efforts, the auditor would not budge from forcing the city into an unaffordable repayment option that would jeopardize city services and employees. The city cannot and will not agree to place such a burden on its citizens,” Brown said.
“Youngstown basically did something new and now, at the state level, well, you have legislation currently trying to be passed for other cities to do the same thing because of what Youngstown did and the economic development it brought,” Oliver said.
“Although our opinions are different, I do feel the one thing that we can agree upon is that the money was well spent and definitely for the benefit of the city,” Adamczak said.
Fifth Ward Councilwoman Lauren McNally also agrees with the mayor’s decision, saying that it’s the decision she wanted from the beginning.
Fourth Ward Councilman Mike Ray hopes the city and auditor can work together to reach a solution that is amicable for both.