Teresi Presents DRI Update At State Conference

State officials had a chance to learn about 10 economic development projects happening in Jamestown.

Sam Teresi, Jamestown mayor, was one of three mayors to discuss their city’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative projects during the New York Conference of Mayors last week. He said along with himself, Bill Aiello, Olean mayor, and Dan Hall, Glens Falls mayor, gave presentations about their city’s DRI program.

Last June, the state approved 10 projects for Jamestown, with each getting a share of the $10 million total approved for the city’s DRI program. The funding and projects for Jamestown DRI include $2.4 million for the Hilton Double Tree Hotel refurbishment; $1.5 million for Robert H. Jackson Center upgrades; $1.5 million for the Reg Lenna Center for the Arts revitalization; and $830,000 for the Jamestown Brewing Company development.

Other projects include $ 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.

In 2016, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the DRI to invest $100 million into 10 communities — one municipality from each of the Regional Economic Development Councils. The initiative is to assist communities with transformative housing, economic development, transportation and community projects to attract and retain residents, visitors and businesses.

Teresi said both Jamestown and Glens Falls received funding from the first DRI round while Olean received funding during the second round.

“I talked about application, presentation of application, the decision process, contracting stage with the state government, forming the local planning committee, the local planning committee process and the funding decision by state,” Teresi said. “I walked them through the activities by the city. It was nice to participate and to share some of our experience … wisdom to help are colleagues in other municipalities around the state.”

Also, during the conference, Teresi said they had a chance to discuss ongoing issues with state officials like the flat state aid proposal and unfunded mandates for municipalities. Teresi said since 2009-10, cities and villages haven’t received an increase in state aid. He said the last time there was an adjustment, there was at least a 2 percent reduction for municipalities, with Jamestown receiving a 9 percent cut at the time.

“I understand the state has a difficult budget before them, but so do all subdivisions, units of local government,” he said. “While the central state government has financial challenges before them with a $4.5 billion deficit for the 2018-19 fiscal year, all of the state’s subdivision units face similar issues and in some cases bigger challenges.”

Teresi said the roughly 500 villages and 62 cities in the state receive $715 million each year in state aid. He said that is a small amount when you compare it to the the $26 billion that around 700 school districts receive in state aid.

“Local governments don’t want aid to schools to be cut, but the increase in state aid to schools is more than what all of the villages and cities in the state receive. There was a 4 percent increase in state aid for school districts. With a $26 billion base, that is more than an (billion) increase for the coming year. More than we get in aid, (school districts) receive in an increase, and rightfully so, but local governments cannot provide services and hold property taxes down without some type of restoration from the cut nine years ago.”

Teresi said mayors throughout the state would also like a policy implemented by the state Legislature that they cannot order local municipalities additional service mandates without providing the financial support.

“If no relief is coming on the revenue side of the equation we need some type of relief on the appropriation side of the equation,” he said. “We want them to pass a policy to have no more mandates without financial support to provide them. Identify where the money is coming from and then provide it to us.”