Budget Battle Begins

Looming Deficit Highlights 2018 City Spending Plan

Sam Teresi, Jamestown mayor, discussing the 2018 executive city budget, which was released Tuesday. The mayor's proposed budget has a deficit of $946,679. The Jamestown City Council will start deliberations on the budget Monday. P-J photo by Dennis Phillips

For the second consecutive year, the Jamestown City Council will start the budget process in the red.

On Tuesday, Sam Teresi, Jamestown mayor, released his 2018 executive city budget with a deficit of $946,679. Last year, Teresi released the 2017 executive budget with a budget deficit of $878,736. Even after budget deliberations by the council during October and November, the 2017 budget deficit was still $824,926.

However, at the 11th hour prior to the Dec. 1 deadline to pass a budget, the council was assisted by state officials who ensured the city they would help them out of the hole so they could pass a balanced budget. In April, Gov. Andrew Cuomo included $1 million in the state budget for the city as part of his Buffalo Billions Phase 2 initiative.

Will this same type of financial assistance come again from the state for the city in 2018? Teresi said if not for the $1 million allocated in the state budget, the city would be in trouble financially.

“The bottom line (is) the state of New York doesn’t want us to fail … they want us to succeed,” he said.

Teresi said they will continue to work closely with state officials during the budget process.

“Hopefully they will continue to work with us to close the gap,” Teresi said. “They want us to succeed as bad as we want to succeed.”

The 2018 budget proposal includes a tax levy increase of $167,712, which is a 1.1 percent tax levy increase. With the tax levy increase, the city has once again hit its constitutional tax limit of $16,011,982. The constitutional tax limit is the amount of money a municipality can ask its property taxpayers to provide compared to the total assessed property value in the community. Each municipality in the state has a constitutional tax limit of 2 percent of the five-year average of the total assessed property value in the community.

The total budget is $35,724,391, which is a $700,897, or 2 percent, increase. The tax rate will be $23.98 per $1,000 assessed property value, which is a 21 cent increase.

The 2018 proposed budget includes an unassigned fund balance of $732,444, which Teresi has recommended using none of it toward the 2018 spending plan. Teresi said there are too many unknowns to use the city’s savings toward the 2018 budget. These unknowns included how much of a deficit the city government might end up with at the end of the year. Right now, the 2018 budget proposal predicts the city will lose $272,612 in 2017. Also, he said the city has four unions with expired contracts that might reach an agreement during 2018. Currently, there are no salary increases proposed in the 2018 budget for the four collective bargaining units without a contract, but the mayor said that might change during next year and the city has to be prepared.

Budget deliberations will start Monday when the council will talk to the Parks and Public Works department officials. The council has a Dec. 1 deadline to pass a budget or the executive budget will be the spending plan in 2018. For those who want to look at the 2018 executive budget memo visit the city’s website at jamestownny.net.

To view a copy of the budget, people can visit the offices of the city clerk or mayor at 200 E. Third St. or visit the James Prendergast Library, 509 Cherry St.