JAMESTOWN – Mayor Sam Teresi has proposed a 2019 city budget that will see a slight decrease in the property tax rate.
On Tuesday afternoon Teresi rolled out his $36 million proposed spending plan, which contains a $0.13 per $1,000 property tax rate decrease – or about a half of a percent.
The slight tax reduction wasn’t done by choice. Teresi explained that the city is at it’s constitutional tax limit and it couldn’t raise this year’s tax levy of $16,012,000 any higher if it wanted to. Gut he said because the total amount of the city’s assessed taxable property values has grown by $3.72 million since last year, it’s allowing the tax levy to be spread out over a larger tax base, resulting in the slight decrease.
As a result, the proposed tax rate for 2019 is $23.85 per $1,000 assessed property value.
As for other details of the budget, the mayor is again counting on supplemental state aid to the tune of $1 million. This is money the city will receive in addition to the regular Aid and Incentives for Municipalities (AIM) that all municipalities receive from the state on an annual basis.
“There comments to us have been that they have been extremely impressed with the progress to date that we’ve achieved as we continue our recovery from the Great Recession-driven budgets from the past several years and digging ourselves out of the hole. They feel it would be very reasonable for us to proceed ahead and budget a third year of additional aid from the state to go into our general fund,” Teresi explained.
The mayor added that there were three primary reasons for the state to make an exception and give Jamestown more aid. He said that one – the additional money is being used as an incentive to do further restructuring; two – it makes sense for the state to work with the city in order to prevent insolvency, which would far more costly for the state to address; and three – Jamestown is in a unique situation because the total budget of the Jamestown Board of Public Utilities is also factored into the state AIM formula, meaning Jamestown receives significantly less aid from the state compared to other cities of similar size, yet the city’s general operating budget doesn’t get nearly as much income from yet.
Other highlights of the budget include the city counting on sales tax revenue from the county to come in higher than what was projected for this year. As a result the mayor and his budget team have increased that projection by 3.3 percent over the current year.
As for expenses, Teresi said there is only a slight growth in salaries for next year, but added that because the city doesn’t have settled contracts with any of its six employee unions, there is the possibility that number would have to be adjusted once new contracts are in place.
Because the mayor is projecting the additional help from Albany and has included it in his spending plan, this year’s proposed budget is a balanced budget.
“Key takeaways are no increase in the tax levy, a 13 cent cut in the tax rate, and a very slight increase in overall spending in the budget. A lot of things have to happen and fall into place and we have to be disciplined in the budget process moving forward *knocks on wood* in order to make this work as designed and we’re confident that we can do that,” Teresi said.
The proposed budget also includes no increase or cut in funding to the James Prendergast Library. Teresi has proposed keeping the library’s funding at $50,000, though library officials will likely request that funding be increased when they meet with the city council in November.
The mayor’s budget presentation and outline can be found online at jamestownny.net. Line-by-line copies of the budget are also available for public review in the mayor’s office, the clerk’s office, and at the James Prendergast Library.
The city council will begin budget deliberations next week and has until Dec. 1 to review, amend, and approve a final spending plan for next year.