JAMESTOWN – Jamestown Mayor Eddie Sundquist has until the end of the day Monday to determine if he will issue any vetoes to the amended $36 million, 2021 city budget that was unanimously approved by the Jamestown City Council one week ago.
The amended budget included 16 approved amendments to the initial executive budget that was presented by Sundquist in October.
Last week during an interview on WRFA, Sundquist had indicated that he would be reviewing the amendments and if there were going to be any vetoes, they would likely come forward by the end of the day Monday.
“Some of the amendments were incredibly reasonable. I think there are some others that we need to have a critical look at as it turns the operations of the city. So my staff and I will take a look at each amendment and we’ll decide if a veto is going to be issued,” Sundquist said during his interview.
Among the major changes to the executive budget was removing a $1 million savings involving shifting retired city employees to a new healthcare provider. That proposal was met with significant resistance by the city’s unions and so the council cut it out of the budget. To offset the $1 million that was added back into the budget, the council proposed using $500,000 from the city’s fund balance, while also boosting sales tax projections and keeping the property tax rate the same as the current year.
The council also approved an amendment to eliminate the city’s recreation coordinator position for next year, resulting in one layoff in the city’s workforce. The vote was 8 to 1, with only republican councilman Brent Sheldon voting against it. The move would cut $53,000 from the city budget.
Sundquist admitted he was concerned with that move because the position does more than just deal with youth activities in city parks.
“What we use for our Recreation Coordinator is much different than the people think. That person is helping and assisting the parks department. The parks have actually been used more than ever this year, especially with the coronavirus… to have that individual and that position be cut is difficult,” Sundquist said, who also added the coordinator has been helping with writing grants for various other departments in city government.
Despite the recreation coordinator position cut being part of the budget process, the council did not discuss the matter during any of its public meetings and instead discussed it in executive session.
Under state open meeting law, the council should only enter executive session only to discuss matters which will imperil the public safety; discussions regarding litigation; contract negotiations; confidential information regarding a particular person; or matters leading to the appointment, employment, promotion, demotion, discipline, suspension, dismissal or removal of a particular person. Because the likely discussion regarding the recreation coordinator position centered on eliminating a specific position and not removing a person from the position, the council should have discussed the matter publicly, but it did not. As a result, there is no record of which council member proposed the move, nor the reasons that were given for cutting the position.
The position is currently held by Julia Ciesla-Hanley, who made a public post on her personal social media page over the weekend asking anyone who was concerned by the position cut to send an email to the City Council through the City Clerk’s Office, requesting the position be restored.
According to Ciesla-Hanley, the Recreation Coordinator is a civil-service, tested, union position. She said that means the job duties cannot be reassigned unless it’s to another person who has passed the test for the job title and who also is in my union. She said currently there is no one else in city government who’s passed the required exam, meaning no one else can assume the duties for that position.
Without a Recreation Coordinator, Ciesla-Hanley said the community would lose several public services, including:
- Reserving a pavilion for safer, outdoor gatherings
- No City-sponsored events like Easter Egg Hunt, Halloween Fun Fest, or Labor Day Fest
- No Juneteenth or other events in Jackson-Taylor Park.
- No groups or individual reservation of any park facility
- No City-run summer sport leagues like the adult softball leagues and City Youth Recreation Baseball league. And other organizations like Babe Ruth Baseball and JAYS Soccer would not be able to reserve fields for games or tournaments
- And The free Summer Playground Program for kids ages 5-13, which has existed since the 1960s, will not take place. This means no free lunch program in the parks as well.
If the mayor does issue any budget amendment vetoes, the council would have to vote on overriding them on or before Dec. 15. A two-thirds vote would be required for any veto override. If the council is unable to override the veto, the amendment(s) would then be removed from next year’s budget.
A quick note of transparency: Ciesla-Hanley is also a volunteer member of the WRFA Community Advisory Board, a panel that is charged with offering programming guidance here at WRFA Radio.