Balancing On A Tightrope Budget

When facing a $3.3 million budget deficit, city officials have tough decisions to make on where to cut costs.

That deficit should make for an easy choice when it comes to proposed raises for City Council members and the mayor. The money isn’t there, so raises aren’t an option.

Mayor Sam Teresi hopes to keep the city budget within the state’s tax cap, and he hasn’t found much reason for optimism as he prepares to release the 2016 executive budget Wednesday, Oct. 7. “There is not a lot of good in this budget right now,” he said. “The 2016 budget has been the most challenging.”

The city also faces the constitutional tax margin, which requires each municipality in the state to keep its total tax levy below 2 percent of the community’s total assessed property value. Currently, Jamestown’s constitutional tax margin is at 94.5 percent.

Finance Committee members have decided to push off discussions on pay increases until after the 2016 budget has been completed. This would give council members the month of December to finalize any proposed raises for elected officials for the upcoming terms. Given the city’s financial state, any raises for the mayor and City Council members should not be under consideration.

Greg Rabb, City Council president, proposed an increase in the mayor’s salary of $750 per year for the next four-year term. This would bump the mayor’s salary from $72,000 to $75,000. Rabb’s proposal would also increase council members’ salaries from $5,000 to $5,500 during the next four years and bump the president’s pay from $6,000 to $6,500. With a $3.3 million deficit, the money to fund those raises simply isn’t there in the 2016 budget.

Rabb, to his credit, said he created the salary proposal under the condition that all three Finance Committee members would need to approve the recommendations for the proposal to reach a vote by the full council. Anthony Dolce, Ward 2 councilman and Finance Committee chairman, and Kimberly Ecklund, at-large councilwoman and committee member, delayed discussion on pay increases at Monday’s meeting. Hopefully they won’t approve those raises in December.

Teresi recommended City Council members deny any raises for 2016. When city officials constantly complain about state mandates and costs out of their control, they shouldn’t put in raises for themselves in tough financial times.