Jamestown City Council has approved a $40.15 million 2024 budget that includes no tax increase.
Council unanimously approved 15 amendments that included eliminating the purchase of an unmarked police vehicle for $41,870, reducing a sidewalk repair fund from $200,000 to $150,000; and decreasing the Real Property Tax revenue line by $250,000.
Council Member at Large and Mayor Elect Kim Ecklund said the Real Property Tax revenue line was decreased in part because Council had passed a local law Monday night raising the income threshold for senior citizens to take advantage of a property tax relief program, which has an over $21,000 impact to the property tax revenue line, “We approved tonight the demo of $500,000 in homes, but we have the $750,000 that’s out there that’s going on right now. Those taxes were not removed from the assessed value in some cases. These are some big outstanding questions I had coming into tonight and why I have asked Joe (Bellitto) for a further review to make sure we’re covered.”
Ecklund said proposed salary increases for appointed department heads also were reduced to an average of a 2.5% increase to be in line with the unions those positions oversee. Those positions include the City Clerk, Comptroller, Corporation Council, and an Engineer.
Ecklund said she still has concerns about this budget, citing the inexperience of current Mayor Eddie Sundquist, his executive assistant Zach Altschuler, and Deputy Comptroller Carol Malek in their role in constructing the budget, “And in my conversations after closing 2022 with Joe (Bellitto), we both have the same concerns. That I’m not real confident in it, but we needed to pass a budget to get the tax bills out and do what we needed to do. But as I stated upstairs, the (December) 11th could be more amendments coming forward.”
Ecklund added that while she has concerns about hitting revenue goals in 2024 budget due to inflation and a recession, she thinks that expenses can be managed once she takes office.
Sundquist said he’s concerned about the cut to the salary increases for department heads given that it has been difficult to hire people. The City has not had been able to hire a Comptroller since December 2022 nor a new Director of Public Works since April 2023. Sundquist indicated that while he still needs to look over the amendments, it’s unlikely that he’ll be issuing any vetoes.
Council also approved a local law to increase the maximum income for property tax relief for senior citizens from a total household income of $19,000 to $22,000. This increase will assist 38 households that are at risk of losing the tax relief due to increases in Social Security income.
Council member Marie Carrubba said she heard that the County was considering raising their income limit from the current $22,000 threshold and, if that happens, that Council should consider raising the City’s threshold as well. Council member at large Jeff Russell, who proposed the local law, said he concurred with that statement.