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City Police Chief Airs 2020 Budget Concerns

Harry Snellings, Jamestown Police Department chief and city public safety director, discusses the proposed 2020 city police budget during a work session meeting of the Jamestown City Council Monday. P-J photo by Dennis Phillips

The criminal justice reforms passed by the state Legislature that will go into effect at the beginning of the year has left a lot of unanswered questions for local police departments.

On Monday, Harry Snellings, Jamestown Police Department chief and city public safety director, discussed the uncertainty next year with the new criminal justice reforms while discussing his proposed 2020 budget. Snellings said he requested three additional officers in his 2020 budget, but the executive budget — released by Sam Teresi, Jamestown mayor, earlier this month — didn’t include any additional employees. Snellings said because of the criminal justice reforms, which includes cashless bail and a quicker discovery time, he believes there will be an increase in calls and in crime next year.

“It is a concern,” he said.

Snellings said his tentative 2020 budget is more than $5,000 less than the approved 2019 spending plan. He said, as of Oct. 11, the department was at 72% of its 2019 budget. He added the department is on track to be under budget.

For 2020, Snellings said there are no contractual salary raises in the department’s budget, but step salary increases are included. He said the proposed 2020 salary budget is $13,000 less than the approved 2019 budget. He added that the decrease in next year’s tentative budget is mostly in less overtime funding.

Snellings said there are two planned retirements in the 2020 budget, but several more officers are eligible to retire. He said his requested budget was for a total of $6.4 million.

The proposed 2020 budget has a police department budget of $5.5 million

Sam Salemme, Jamestown Fire Department deputy fire chief, also presented his budget to the council. He said the proposed Smart City Capital Investment Plan will assist the department in adding much needed new equipment and vehicles. He said concerns for next year include three planned retirements and four people out on long-term injuries at the beginning of the year, which could leave the department with fewer firefighters working at the start of the year.

Salemme also discussed that the fire department has four stations that are an average age of 79 years old. He said some of the stations need necessary upkeep, including a new roof on one of the facilities.

The 2020 executive budget has a proposed $82,942, or .52%, tax levy increase. According to the state Department of Taxation and Finances, the tax levy is the amount raised through property taxes.

For the first time in two years, the tax levy will be increasing in the city because the Constitutional tax limit increased by the same margin. The constitutional tax limit is the amount of money the city can ask its property taxpayers to provide compared to the total taxable assessed value of all property in the community. The city’s constitutional tax limit is 2% of the five-year average of the total taxable assessed value of all property in the community. The city hit 100% of its taxing limit in 2017.

The Constitutional tax limit increased because once again there was an increase in the total taxable assessed value of all property in the city, which increased by $3,325,536, or 0.5%, to a total of $674,839,617.

The tax rate will be the same as in 2019 at $23.85 per $1,000 assessed property value. According to the state Department of Taxation and Finances, the tax rate is determined by dividing the tax levy by the total taxable assessed value of all property in a jurisdiction.

The total budget is $36,627,704, which is an increase of $629,742, or 1.7%.

The Jamestown City Council has a Dec. 1 deadline to pass a fiscal plan or the proposed executive budget will go into effect.

In other business, Joseph Bellitto, city comptroller, discussed the third quarter financial report. He said the Jamestown Board of Public Utilities Payment In Lieu of Taxes is lower than budgeted. He said only the water division is exceeding budget projections. He said overall, the PILOT payment for all five BPU divisions is under budget by $50,000.

As for expenditures, Bellitto said the budget is doing OK when it comes to salaries and is under budget when it comes to benefits like health insurance. Third quarter sales tax revenues are expected to be available Nov. 1. Bellitto said the third quarter sales tax revenues are usually the highest of the year.

Vince DeJoy, city development director, announced that asbestos surveying has started for 343 Foote Ave., which will eventually be demolished. He said the house is known as the “Leaning house on Foote Avenue.” He added that when he started as the city’s development director in 2013, Teresi asked him to work toward demolishing the house. DeJoy said he has been told the house will be torn down by the time the mayor leaves office Dec. 31.

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