JAMESTOWN – The Jamestown City Council has approved a $35 million 2017 budget that contains no operating deficit.
On Monday the city council council’s finance committee announced that the city would close an $825,000 operating deficit for the 2017 spending plan through an increase of projected state aid.
Council member and Finance Committee Chair Tony Dolce (R – Ward II) said amended amount of state aid is the result of recent conversations with the State Department of Budget and Finance, with state officials saying they are aware of Jamestown’s financial problems and will be able to offer some additional support in 2017, on top of the $6,087,000 that was already projected.
“Until [the state] actually gets its budget process going in January or February, we won’t know exactly how much we’ll get,” Dolce said. “It could be more than that. I could be less than that. We obviously have the right and responsibility to make the adjustments as necessary. So if we only get some of it or none of it, we’re going to have to go back and make adjustments to the budget in order to go through 2017.”
Jamestown City Council President Greg Rabb (D – At Large) called the budget process the most difficult he’s ever been a part of and was thankful the state was able to step in at the 11th hour to say it will offer support for the city.
“It’s not the best of situations, but it’s the best possible budget we could put together under these difficult circumstances and it is a balanced budget,” Rabb said. “I mentioned that when we put in revenue or expenses, we’re never totally sure about any of it. We do our best job at estimating, and we hope that we are right.”
The final vote on the spending plan was 8 to 1, with city council member Brent Sheldon (R-Ward I) voting against the budget. Prior to the vote, Sheldon said he was disappointed with Mayor Sam Teresi for putting forward a budget that wasn’t balanced. He also said that there’s no guarantee the state will be able to bail out the city.
“The state of New York has cut our aid in 2010 and 2011 and has not increased it, at all, these previous few years. I find it hard to believe that they would restore the aid and give us almost double what they cut. Therefore, I will not be voting in favor of this budget,” Sheldon said.
In addition to increasing state aid, the city council made three other adjustments to the budget totaling nearly $54,000. The adjustments included a $13,800 reduction in fire department salaries, $15,000 reduction in Health Insurance costs, and a $25,000 increase in the PILOT payment from the BPU’s water division.
The city council also left in $600,000 in state aid from the state’s Financial Restructuring Board, which would be used to create an annual savings for the city by implementing a buy-out incentive program designed to encourage Medicare eligible retirees, currently receiving supplemental insurance coverage through the city’s self-funded plan, to transition to a lower cost, commercially based supplemental product. There is no guarantee that funding will come forward or that retirees will participate, but Dolce said the state has given it’s word that it will help with the program.
“The state thought it was a great idea and they are willing to back it. We’re going to be starting January 1 to meet individually with those people and begin that process,” Dolce said. “We may get some, we may get all of it. We may get more. The $600,000 was a middle-of-the-road, conservative projection based on numbers, but if the numbers were higher, than obviously the savings could be much more significant.”
The tax levy for the 2017 budget is $15,694,050, an increase of $150,220, or .96 percent. With the increase, the city has reached its constitutional tax limit. The increase also is above the state mandated tax cap, which required – under state law – at least a 2/3 majority vote on the budget in order for it to pass. The 2017 tax rate will be $23.77 per $1,000 assess property value. This is an 18 cent increase, or .76 percent. The executive budget totals $35,052,304.
Mayor Teresi was attending an economic development council conference in Syracuse on Monday and was not at last night’s council meeting. As a result he was not immediately available for comment following the passage of the spending plan.