JAMESTOWN – There’s been a heavy focus on development projects aimed at tourism and quality of life in recent months in the city of Jamestown, but Jamestown Mayor Sam Teresi said that the city is still focused on trying to solve its financial challenges.
Teresi was a guest this past week on WRFA’s Community Matters program and while much of the conversation focused on the completion of key phases of the Greater Jamestown Riverwalk as well as the upcoming opening of the National Comedy Center, he also was asked if the city is focused on development in other sectors within the city, as well as addressing the ongoing financial challenges in the city’s general operating budget.
Teresi said the city is actually focusing on a variety of items, from housing to crime to economic development.
“Our work is not done. It’s never ending. It’s continuous on everything else that we are trying to move forward – from an economic development standpoint to a quality of life standpoint in the community. And to put it quite bluntly, yes we can, we need to, and we do and are able to walk and chew gum and do 50 other things at the same time. That’s the nature of life these days. Whether you’re in the private sector, not-for-profit, or the media, you need to multitask. You need to work on multiple fronts at the same time. We do that every single day in city government,” Teresi said.
In two consecutive years the city has been straddled with a shortfall in the city budget that could only be closed with additional state aid from Albany. Despite the recent success of the riverwalk, the NCC, and several other downtown projects connected to the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant, the city remains at its constitutional taxing limit and the 2019 budget is expected to be another major challenge for the mayor and the city council. But Teresi said he is optimistic things will begin turning in the city’s favor due to new development.
“The days in which we were losing $4-6 million a year in tax assessment has basically leveled out, it plateaued, and not for the past few years we’ve been posting modest gains in tax assessment. So it’s having a direct impact in the way of payment in lieu of taxes that otherwise wouldn’t have happened,” Teresi said. “But it’s also sending out a loud and clear message to investors our there – and I include the state of New York as one of those investors – that you can have confidence in Jamestown.”
In addition to various downtown development projects funded by both public and private dollars, the city has also focused on other initiatives in recent years to address its financial challenges. However some are either in a holding pattern or have completely stalled out. They include the Health Insurance Buyout Program for city retirees and the proposed Jamestown Police Department consolidation plan with the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office (both funded with money secured by the New York State Financial Restructuring Board funding) along with the controversial annexation of the city-owned Board of Public Utilities substation property in Falconer.
Between those three alone, the city is projected to see a positive financial benefits in excess of $2 million annually. But the retirement buyout has yet to see the interest from retirees that was projected, the consolidation effort continues to await action from the county legislature and city council, and the annexation will need to be settled in New York 4th Appellate Division court in Rochester, although a date has yet to be set.
In the meantime city officials will have to once again face major financial hurdles when they deals with the 2019 City Budget, which will be presented by the mayor and put before the city council for consideration in October.