JAMESTOWN – City officials will begin the difficult task of reviewing and adjusting Jamestown’s 2017 budget when they meet Monday night in city hall.
Last week mayor Sam Teresi presented his $35 million executive spending plan, which is $70,000 lower than the total spending in the current year’s budget. But despite the slight decrease, next year’s proposed budget also contains a nearly $879,000 deficit.
This isn’t surprising,” city council president Greg Rabb told WRFA following the budget presentation. “The mayor has been very good at keeping us informed. Anybody that’s been here – and there’s a few council members who’ve been here longer than me – we just knew that these things were coming. What always surprises me is that we did so well for so long, but we all knew that some day we were all going to face a real challenging year.”
According to the mayor, he and his staff have tried to identify as many cuts to the budget as possible, but due to several mandates including minimum staffing requirements and healthcare contributions, he was only able to bring down spending so much. The cuts in the mayor’s proposed budget include a $250,000 (71 percent) funding cut to the James Prendergast Library and a $2,500 cut for the Jamestown Senior Center.
The mayor has also built in other assumptions, including a $600,000 deduction in healthcare costs for Medicare-eligible retirees, which could only be made a reality if the city receives a $600,000 grant from the state and if there are retirees willing to be “bought out” of the city healthcare program. The budget includes no raises that aren’t included in an existing contract.
“The budget is based on 15 different assumptions and some of them will require council action,” Rabb said. “I think I can speak for the council and say that we’re pretty much on board.”
On the revenue side, the city will be unable to rely on several revenue options it had in previous years, including the profit contributions from the Jamestown Board of Public Utilities. and even the ability to raise property taxes enough to close the deficit. That’s because the city has all but reached its constitutional taxing limit for the current year. In fact, the mayor’s 2017 budget contains a .96 percent increase in the tax levy, which brings the city up to its constitutional taxing limit. That equates to a tax rate increase for property owners of .76 percent – or $0.18 per thousand assessed value.
The Jamestown City Council is required to review and finalize the 2017 spending plan by Dec. 1. It will begin the process Monday night when the finance committee meets with the officials from city’s Department of Public Works and Parks Department to go over the 2017 spending plan line-by-line and determine if any adjustments are possible.
“We’re all in this together and we’re going to solve it together,” Rabb said.
That budget hearing begins at 6:30 p.m. Monday on the fourth floor of city hall and is open to the public. The full city council work session is also set to meet Monday at 7:30 p.m.