JAMESTOWN – Despite facing significant budget gaps the past two years that were only closed after additional aid was provided by the state, the city of Jamestown is not on the State Comptroller’s latest list of municipalities in fiscal stress or even those that are at risk of fiscal stress.
Last week NY comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s Fiscal Stress Monitoring System announced it had designated 25 municipalities across the state as being in either “significant” or “moderate” fiscally stressed. The list was compiled using data collected for the fiscal year ending 2017.
None of the municipalities on the list were from Chautauqua County and only two – the city of Niagara Falls (Niagara County) and the village of Andover (Allegany County) were from Western New York.
Jamestown Mayor Sam Teresi – who’s responsible for creating an annual budget for the city and is well aware of the fiscal challenges it faces – tells WRFA he’s even puzzled as to why the city wasn’t on the list.
“We are left scratching our heads on that, although in one respect we are happy to not be on that dubious report,” Teresi said on Monday. “We’ve asked that question on several occasions to the staff at the comptrollers office. Comptroller DiNapoli and I have even had questions about that, personally our selves about that. As has been related to us from the Comptroller’s office is that is an example of just one fiscal stress test.”
The comptroller also provided a list of municipalities that were susceptible to fiscal stress. But again no Chautauqua County municipalities, including Jamestown, are present.
Jamestown is currently at its maximum constitutional taxing limit, meaning that it can’t raise its tax levy any higher unless property values see proportionate increase. That puts the city officials under pressure to try and balance a budget where revenues aren’t able to meet rising expenses, most of which have already been reduced to as low as they can possibly go.
“[The lists] are based on certain factors – a market basket. There’s other stress tests that are out there and [this one] for some reason does not include percentage of constitutional tax limit in play or what margin is left over,” Teresi explained. “So it just so happens that that’s not part of that measurement basket and without that factor weighted in there, we look relatively strong.”
DiNapoli’s monitoring system, which was implemented in 2013, evaluates local governments on nine financial indicators and creates a fiscal stress score. Indicators assess fund balance, cash-on-hand, short -term borrowing, fixed costs and patterns of operating deficits. The system also evaluates information such as population trends, poverty and unemployment in order to establish a separate “environmental” score for each municipality which can be used to help describe the environment in which these local governments operate.
Meanwhile Teresi will present his 2019 executive budget next Tuesday, Oct. 9 during a presentation at 4 p.m. in his conference room – fourth floor of city hall. That presentation is open to the public. Once released, the Jamestown City Council will have until Dec. 1 to review, amend, and approve a final spending plan for next year.