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City Council To Vote On COVID-19 Proposal

Jamestown city officials are planning to cut more than $1.5 million from its 2020 budget.

City officials Tuesday released its COVID-19 Financial Restructuring Plan. A special meeting of the Jamestown City Council has been scheduled at 7 p.m. Monday to potentially approve the first of three possible phases of budget reductions because of the loss of revenues and probable decrease in state aid because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Based on our estimates, the city of Jamestown now faces a potential budget shortfall between $2 million to $4.75 million. These estimates are due to a projected 10% to 30% decrease in sales tax revenue, a 20% to 30% reduction in New York state aid and a general loss in miscellaneous city revenue (permits, parking fines, etc.),” states the plan, which was signed by both Jamestown Mayor Eddie Sundquist and Joseph Bellitto, city comptroller.

“We want to be very clear that these are estimates given current financial information, and like all things during this pandemic, subject to change depending on federal or state funding, budget realignments or further changes in law.”

If approved by the council, Phase One cuts will total $1,155,674. These cuts will include a $100,000 budget reallocation from the Jamestown Urban Renewal Agency to the city because of additional funding the city has received through the CARES Act; a $100,000 savings through the Public Works Department central garage; a $289,000 savings in Public Work Department streets; a $251,000 savings in the Parks Department; and a $310,187 savings in overall benefits.

“Phase One should be implemented immediately to help to close the projected budget gap,” the plan states. “If potential revenue declines remain on the lower end of projections, Phase One will help mitigate the impact a deficit would have on the general fund. Phase One prioritizes no full-time layoffs and instead focuses on cuts to general city services. While some of the measures in this phase have already been implemented, others will result in further reduction in city services, no unnecessary travel and a cut back in costs and contingencies in department budgets. Increased projected savings from benefits also make a marked impact on the cost savings. Phase One will require that the city begin to work with employee bargaining units to find additional savings to avoid deeper and more impactful cuts to the city budget, including layoffs.”

Even though there is no plan to implement Phase Two and Three costs reductions yet, the plan does go into detail about what might happen if projected revenues and loss of state aid is greater than what is being estimated.

In both of these phases, layoffs of city employees would occur. The plan states that in Phase Two, which would save $228,044, there could be as many as 20 city employees laid off, which would approximately be two to five workers in each department. The Phase Three plan, which would save $54,292, calls for the possibility of 10 more employee layoffs across all departments.

Anthony Dolce, council president, said city officials have been discussing the possible phases of plans and what they could do to deal with the potential loss of revenues.

“We decided on a three-phase plan, with the first phase being about trying to save as many positions as we can to maintain services,” he said. “The first phase is the most lenient in the plan. We’re hoping it’s as far as we have to go.”

Dolce said in Phase One there is a decrease in funding to departments, but most of the cuts will be for equipment. He also said with park events being canceled, the city can save money from not hosting the activities.

“We will continue to monitor the plan. When we have a better idea on sales tax, because we’re not sure right now, we will have a better idea of the whole impact,” he said. “The other thing is we really don’t know what the possible cut in state will be. Just like the schools, it’s up in the air.”

Dolce also said city officials could use its fund balance, or savings account, to offset some of the loss in revenues. In April, Bellitto told the council the fund balance is at $3,786,912 after the 2019 fiscal year.

“We will at least look at using some of the fund balance even though we don’t want to do that, but that is an option we can look at,” he said. “We’ve been trying our best to not use any of it as much as possible with the uncertainties moving forward with (union) contracts and the arbitration case. We’ve been trying to hold back, but no one could see the impact (COVID-19) was going to have.”

Dolce said he hopes as the economy reopens there will be an increase in activity and spending, which will assist city officials with additional revenue.

“We’ve done a good job to maintain essential services,” he said. “We do have services like street repairs and City Hall moving back to being open.”

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