JAMESTOWN – A city resident took Jamestown officials to task earlier this week for not following the rules of the city charter when it comes to dealing with the city budget.
During Monday Night’s Jamestown City Council work session, city resident Doug Champ handed out a copy of a section in the city charter dealing with the city budget (Article V: Finance, Section C-39: Budget, Part D. Budget submittal and message) and highlighting the text that stated the mayor is to submit a balanced budget to the council for its consideration.
“It’s somewhat perplexing that we have a charter and we have laws in the charter that were adopted by this body, and then we kind of don’t follow it,” Champ said. “I understand why you might not want to follow it, because we have a deficit. But then, on the other hand, that deficit needs to be met at some point in time.”
A full copy of portion of the city charter Champ provided for the city council is provided at the end of this report.
Mayor Sam Teresi presented his $35.7 million spending plan last month that included a $947,000 deficit. The previous year he also submitted a spending plan that wasn’t balanced, though the council was able to finally balance it by adding additional state aid to the revenue side of the ledger. It’s not known yet how the council plans to deal with the budget deficit for 2018.
In response to Champ’s concerns, Teresi explained that city officials should follow the charger whenever possible, but also added that the financial challenges facing the city in recent years have made it impossible when dealing with the budget. He added that the only way he could present a balanced budget is by using unrealistic revenue projections, and that’s something he doesn’t believe in doing.
“I’m not going to go and lie to my colleagues on the city council and lie to the people of the city that we work for and say the budget is in a balanced position when it’s not. And currently on my own and legally there is no other way to make it balanced, other than in name,” Teresi said. “We’ve got work to do and we’re doing that work right now. In years past where I have been able to deliver a budget that is actually and legally in balance, we’ve done that. But I’m not going to sit here and lie to the members of the public as well as the city council and call something balanced when it is not.”
During his budget presentation, Teresi said that all of the city’s $35.7 million in expenses are required by due to state mandates such as minimum staffing requirements and contract language the city is legally obligated to adhere to. The city has also reached its constitutional taxing limit, so it can not raise property taxes in order to close the spending gap.
The line-by-line budget proposal can be viewed at city hall in the Clerk’s Office or the mayor’s office or at the James Prendergast Library.
In addition to the balanced budget from the mayor, Champ was also concerned that the council is not following the charter when it comes to the budget hearing. The charter states that any amendments to the mayor’s budget proposal should be presented prior to a budget hearing. But just like last year, the council doesn’t plan to have any amendments ready to present to the public during the Nov. 20 budget hearing, and will instead present amendments on the day the budget is actually voted on, which is expected the following week on Nov. 27 during the council’s regular voting session.
The budget deadline is Dec. 1.
A copy of the handout provided by resident Doug Champ to the Jamestown City Council