JAMESTOWN – The New York State Comptroller’s Office has released an audit regarding the Financial Condition of the City of Jamestown, and it’s critical of how the city has managed its annual budget the past few years.
The audit, which was posted on the state comptroller’s website on Sept. 30, reviewed the City’s financial condition for the period of Jan. 1, 2012 through Aug. 19, 2016.
There were three key findings that came out of the Audit. The review found that City officials have adopted budgets that were not structurally balanced. The Audit also found that City officials have not developed a multiyear financial plan. And the Audit states that Mayor Sam Teresi, the Jamestown City Council, and Finance Director Joe Bellitto did not properly budget for, and the Mayor did not ensure that the Comptroller properly accounted for, health care expenditures.
In response to the findings, city officials offered a 12 page memo, which explained that the audit was something that was actually requested by the mayor and city council, due to the fiscal challenges the city is facing as it prepares for the 2017 budget. The response for the city also offered explanations for several of the audit’s findings, including pointing out that the city’s tenuous financial position is due primarily to state mandates and contractual obligations the city is required to honor. In addition, city officials pointed to a slow recovery from the great recession, which has had a negative impact on income.
Along with the key findings, the Audit also provided several recommendations. It said the city should adopt structurally balanced budgets that include realistic estimates and fund recurring expenditures with recurring revenues. It should also develop and regularly update a comprehensive, written multiyear financial and capital plan that includes realistic measures for rebuilding fund balance levels, addressing capital needs and restoring the City’s long-term fiscal health. And the audit said that the city should correct the accounting records to ensure health care costs and fund balance are properly recorded and reported in the general fund.
Mayor Teresi was not in his office on Tuesday when WRFA first discovered the audit on the State Comptroller’s website and so he was unavailable for immediate comment. However, Jamestown City Council president Greg Rabb told WRFA Tuesday afternoon the audit didn’t really present anything city officials didn’t already know and if anything, it reaffirmed the financial conditions they’ve been aware of for the past few years.
“All the minor stuff that they’ve said to do, we’ve agreed to do it. In fact, as the mayor likes to say, ‘It’s already been done,'” Rabb said. “But the serious financial issue that we’re facing is still hanging over our heads. So asking them to come down and talk to us was the first step. Now we need help from the state to balance our budget in 2017. I can’t talk about what the mayor’s going to say the budget is built on, because that’s his job to release [those details] next week, but we need help.”
Rabb also said that many of those recommendations are already being done by the city, including the recommendation regarding long-range planning.
“We’ve always done long range planning,” Rabb said. “If you ever look at the budgets, every single budget book has long range planning from the mayor and the city comptroller. What the state comptroller said was we didn’t fill out their long range planning form. So we said, ‘Fine, if you want us to fill out your form, we’ll fill out your form.’ But we’ve definitely been doing long-range planning.”
Teresi was unavailable for immediate comment on the audit. He will release his executive budget for 2017 next Tuesday, Oct. 11 at 3 p.m. in the mayor’s conference room on the 4th floor of city hall. The presentation is open to the public.
The mayor will also be a guest on this week’s Community Matters program (Thursday at 5 p.m. on WRFA). However the interview was conducted prior to the audit and as a result, it was not covered during the interview.