JAMESTOWN – The Jamestown City Council continued the 2016 city budget process Monday night with a public hearing on mayor Sam Teresi’s version of the proposed spending plan, as well as with continued deliberations on the budget during its work session.
During the public hearing, only two individuals spoke on the budget. One was Jamestown resident Doug Champ, who criticized city officials for not being creative enough to bring new economic development into the region, which has resulted in stagnate growth and the city reaching its constitutional tax limit.
“I assume that none of you wants a control board and you’ve not worked in a city with a control board, but that’s what you’re going to get. It’s just a matter of time before it’s going to happen. If you’re at 99.9 percent [of the constitutional tax limit] you might as well be at 100 percent. It’s just a matter of time for that to happen,” Champ said. “Why are we there? We’re there because the development and the full assessment of this city has not kept up with the rising cost of the public services. We do not know how to attract private investment.”
Champ also criticized the city for not doing enough to promote its assets – such as the BPU – and location to help recruit research and development projects.
“We sit here with these assets, not understanding how we can attract research and development opportunities from outside the area,” Champ said. “The mayor should be traveling to economic development conferences around the country and have a bill of knowledge to provide to these people that are interested in doing things.”
Besides Champ, the only other person to speak out on the budget was resident Bill Locke, who urged the city to continue the same level of support for the James Prendergast Library as it has in the past. The mayor’s budget proposal calls for cutting $15,000 in funding to the library, giving it $350,000 in 2016.
COUNCIL REVIEWS SERVICE AGENCY FUNDING
Following the public hearing, city officials also held a work session to focus on the budget and met with representatives from three local agencies that receive funding from the city – the Prendergast Library, the Fenton History Center, and the Jamestown Area Senior Center.
During the meeting with Prendergast Library Director Tina Scott, the council asked about the library’s operations and services, as well as why fundraising for the library has gone down by nearly $100,000 during the past decade. Scott and board member Joni Blackman explained that a large portion of the donors for the library were seniors and that pool of donors has declined in size over the years, without younger adults stepping in to offset the loss. They also acknowledged concern from the community regarding the previous director, Linda Mielke, which led to a number of supporters no longer donating to the library.
Besides the library, the Senior Center is also slated to see a cut in funding. The mayor’s budget proposes cutting the entire $5,000 in annual funding the center receives. Activities director Shirley Vandenburg said if the funding is cut completely in next year’s budget, the senior center will have to close. In response city council members asked Vandenburg about other possible funding sources. The senior center provides services for about 130 seniors each month and is located at Immanuel Lutheran Church, 556 E. Second St.
The council also talked with Blackman, who also serves as the executive director of the Fenton History Center. Because the city owns the Fenton Mansion and related property, it is required to continue paying the cost for the upkeep of the facility. As a result, the Fenton did not see any reduction in funding for 2016.
So far, the council has yet to make any changes to the mayor’s $35.1 million executive budget, which is calling for a tax hike of 5.6 percent. The next budget work session is at 7 p.m. next Monday, Nov. 23. The council has until Dec. 1 to complete and pass a budget.