Mayor: State Could Assist City Again With Deficit

Every budget ever created contains countless unknowns because the vast majority of a fiscal plan contains estimations determined by past history and current trends.

Despite the numerous unknowns in the proposed 2018 Jamestown city budget, there is one that will most likely determine whether city officials will make ends meet. The big question on the minds of lawmakers is whether or not the city will once again receive assistance from the state when it comes to clearing the proposed $946,679 deficit in the proposed 2018 executive budget.

On Oct. 10, Jamestown Mayor Sam Teresi started the budget process by releasing his executive budget, which contained the large deficit.

This was the second year in a row the mayor started budget deliberations with an unbalanced spending plan. Last year, Teresi presented his 2017 executive budget with a deficit of $878,736.

Luckily for city officials, the state at the 11th hour ensured the council they would be assisting them with additional state funding to allow them to pass a balanced budget before the Dec. 1 deadline. In April, Gov. Andrew Cuomo included $1 million in the state budget for the city as part of his Buffalo Billions Phase 2 initiative.

“Credit has to be given where credit is due,” Teresi said. “The state has been extremely helpful. An indispensable partner in our efforts to get back on our feet to start walking and start running again.”

Teresi said city officials cannot bank on the state coming back again with additional revenues to once again help them out of the hole. However, Teresi said state officials aren’t in favor of establishing a fiscal control board in Jamestown either.

“The deficit is $946,000 and to get out of the hole we will be needing to work with our partners at the state level to close it through either additional revenues or additional cuts,” Teresi said.

The mayor said there are a few reasons he believes state officials will continue to help the city with their fiscal problems. One is the economic development happening around the city, of which the state has also helped in funding.

For example, the state has funded more than $9.8 million toward the National Comedy Center. Last year, the state included Jamestown in the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative. Around $10 million was given to several projects including $2.4 million for the renovations of the former Ramada Inn on Fourth Street into the Double Tree by Hilton that will be operated by the Hamister Group. There was also $1.5 million given to the Robert H. Jackson Center for their planned upgrades; $1.5 million for the Reg Lenna Center for the Arts revitalization; $830,000 for the Jamestown Brewing Company development; $1 million for the redevelopment of the former Key Bank Building; $670,000 for the excursion train infrastructure and depot; $610,000 for streetscape and pedestrian improvements; $600,000 for downtown programming and activities; $325,000 for Greater Jamestown Riverwalk enhancements; and $265,000 for Little Theater upgrades.

“(State officials) have been the No. 1 supporters in a major league fashion to our redevelopment efforts,” Teresi said.

Another reason Teresi believes the state is assisting Jamestown is the long-term transformation initiatives city officials have been working on the past couple years. He said the list of 14 initiatives shows state officials that city officials are working to improve fiscal conditions in Jamestown.

“If the state Division of Budget and the Governor’s Office had no confidence based on what we have done in the past and what we are trying to do now, they wouldn’t have the confidence in us to be investing the type of dollars they are in Jamestown,” Teresi said. “The state is not into bailing out repeated incompetence. They are about assisting and investing in efforts of self-help, and to help those with the desire and the ability to move forward.”

Teresi says if Jamestown officials can continue to pull themselves out of a fiscal hole, with the assistance of the state, he said the city could be an example of how other state cities, who are also experiencing budget problems, can work toward improving their finances.

“(The state) has worked with us for a couple reasons,” he said. “One, they don’t want to see a mid-size city fail. Also, by helping us, we are a good model for elsewhere in the state. We can show other cities that they can bootstrap their way out of this.”