JAMESTOWN – Jamestown Mayor Sam Teresi has released his final budget.
On Tuesday afternoon the outgoing mayor presented a 2020 budget proposal that includes a 1.7% increase in spending over the current year, bringing total expenditures for next year up to $36.6 million. The budget also includes an $83,000 increase in the tax levy – which is 0.5% higher than 2019.
The tax levy increase is due to the city’s Constitutional tax limit being slightly increased due to a small growth in assessable properties. However, despite the slight increase, the city’s tax rate under the mayor’s proposal would remain at $23.85 per thousand assessed value – the same amount as this year.
“The property tax rate remains exactly what it was for 2019. This is a no tax rate increase budget again,” Teresi noted. “There’s a slight tax levy increase, which takes us back up to 100 percent but here is no tax rate increase, and the reason why is we had some slight, measurable increase in assessment. Some of the exclusions in the constitutional tax limit have factored in, which provides a little bit more tax limit cap space for us in 2020.”
Teresi also said that once again, the city is relying on the state to help balance its budget by providing supplemental aid in addition to the regular AIM aid that all municipalities receive as part of the state’s revenue sharing process. The mayor has budgeted $1 million in supplemental state aid – the same amount the city received this year. He also says he’s been assured by the state budget office that the money will be available for 2020.
The mayor also cautioned the city council from using any of the city’s unassigned fund balance to increase spending in the budget or to help lower the tax rate. Current projections show the city’s unassigned fund balance at $2.4 million. The mayor said that some of that money may be needed as a major payment settlement to the city police and fire unions – which have both been working without a contract since the start of 2016.
Currently the city and police union are in a legal battle over a 2018 arbitration decision that called for a 2% salary increase for police officers. The city is arguing against that decision, claiming the arbitrators didn’t fully consider the city’s financial situation. The fire union is awaiting the outcome of that case before it proceeds with its own arbitration effort. But depending on how the contract matters are settled, the city could be required to make a significant back-payment to the unions and Teresi said much of the fund balance could be depleted as a result.
There are no additional programs or staffing in the budget. As a result, the increased cost for salaries and benefits for 2020 compared to the current year is 1.8%. In fact, Teresi said there would likely be an adjustment in the city clerk’s office that would help to free up additional salary money.
“The financial management structure has been reworked. What we’re looking to do – and this will require a charter change by the first of the year – we’re looking, with [city clerk] Mr. Olson’s retirement in his acting capacity, to eliminate the Director of Administrative Services / City Clerk position and bring back and reinstitute the historical City Clerk / Treasurer position that will have somewhere between a $20,000 to $25,000 savings value,” Teresi said. “That needs to happen. If you’re not willing to make it happen, then we’re going to have to go out and find other cuts or generate more revenue.”
The proposed budget will now go to the city council for its review. Budget deliberations will begin on Oct. 21 with a review of the DPW and Parks Department budgets. The council has until Dec. 1 to finalize the spending plan.
To view the 2020 executive budget summary, visit jamestownny.net.