Jamestown Meets Criteria For New Arbitration Process

It should come as no surprise that Jamestown will be one of the first cities in the state to test the state’s reconfigured binding arbitration process.

In 2013, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state legislative leaders came to an agreement that created the Financial Restructuring Board, which Jamestown has made use of in the years since, and changed the binding arbitration law. Under this legislation, the statute authorizing binding arbitration will be extended for a three-year period. For fiscally eligible municipalities, the statute would establish clear ability to pay standards that arbitration panels will be obligated to follow, giving far greater weight to a municipality’s ability to pay for services than under current law. For those localities, arbitration panels must give 70 percent of the weight of their decision to ability to pay, and must specifically consider the requirements and limitations of the state’s property tax cap. The remaining 30 percent would be afforded to the other statutory criteria such as wage comparison, prior contracts and public interest.

A local government would be deemed a fiscally eligible municipality for arbitration purposes if it meets one of the following two fiscal tests: if the local government’s average full value property tax rate is above the 75th percentile for all municipalities statewide as averaged over the most recent five fiscal years, or if the local government’s five-year average general fund balance equals less than five percent of its budget. The government must also receive certification from the state comptroller verifying total fund balance availability.

Jamestown would seem to meet both criteria.

Few would argue that Jamestown has a group of hard-working police officers and firefighters who put their lives on the line every day to keep the community safe. Paying for that valuable service has proven difficult over the years. We hope this arbitration process, unlike some in the past, comes to a resolution that is fair for those who provide public safety services every day and the taxpayers they protect.