City Mayor Proposes 2021 Budget Tax Levy, Rate Decrease
Despite unprecedented fiscal challenges following the COVID-19 pandemic, first-year Jamestown Mayor Eddie Sundquist is proposing a tax rate and levy decrease in the 2021 executive city budget.
On Thursday, Sundquist released the proposed budget, which includes a 17 cent reduction in the tax rate. 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 tentative budget also includes a $70,000 decrease in the tax levy. According to the state Department of Taxation and Finances, the tax levy is the amount raised through property taxes. Sundquist said next year’s proposed budget is $1.66 million less than the 2020 spending plan.
“Because of these hard decisions and innovative efforts, the 2021 (fiscal year) budget provides no layoffs for full-time employees, as well as the largest property tax cut in a decade of .72% or $.17 (per) thousand in assessed (property) value,” Sundquist said. “During these difficult economic times, property tax owner relief is a priority. For an owner of a $70,000 house, this will mean a savings of $11.90 over last year’s tax bill. The tax decrease also assists in further separating the city away from being at its state Constitutional tax limit.”
One of the proposals in the budget highlighted by Sundquist is an initiative to lower health care costs and protect retirees. He said the city plans to move Medicare-eligible retirees to a Medicare supplement or advantage plan. He added that the city will then pay for the full premium of the members switched to those plans.
Sundquist said the new Medicare plan will save retirees more than a $1,000 a year while offering them the same level of care they are accustomed to, no matter where they live. He said the city would save $1.1 million in health care and prescription costs next year.
Sundquist also proposes to amortize a portion of next year’s pension costs for both retirement systems — employee and fire and police.
He said this will “free up” $368,000 in additional funding that will be placed into the contingency fund, which will increase from $375,000 in 2020 to $575,000 in 2021. He added that city officials want to also amortize the pension costs because of the significant increase in both systems. The employee retirement system cost is project to rise 14% and there is a projected 22% hike for the fire and police retirement system.
In the tentative 2021 budget, Sundquist is also proposing to add new positions. In the Parks Department, he said there will be a new parks manager for the first time in 14 years. He also said the position of recreation coordinator will be changed to a lifestyles coordinator to focus more on fostering community involvement.
In the mayor’s office, there will be a new position of communications coordinator/grant writer who will assist all city departments in centralized communications strategy and in funding opportunities.
In the Jamestown Police Department, there will be a new citizen affairs and community engagement captain position. Sundquist said this role will focus on citizen engagement and ensure residents are connected to resources they need to interact with the police department.
“Operational changes in the budget will lead to more community engagement and training by city departments,” Sundquist said. “Several positions will be reimagined or added to increase communications, community interaction and connecting city government with the people.”
Anthony Dolce, council president who attended the mayor’s budget presentation, said he will have to examine and look over the proposed budget and new initiatives before commenting thoroughly on the mayor’s proposed budget. He said that he is concerned about whether or not the $1 million health care savings will come to fruition given the increased insurance costs each year and the unsettled contracts between the city and the Police and Fire department unions. He added that city officials will have to look over the numbers and options to determine if the proposal can be budgeted.
“We will have to see if that can be done,” he said.
The Jamestown City Council will now deliberate over the proposed budget, which will start prior to the next council work session on Monday, Oct. 19.
“The budget now goes on to the Jamestown City Council for its review and action in the coming weeks. During that time, council and I will continue to look for additional ways to improve the city’s finances,” Sundquist said.
The council is required to hold a public hearing on the budget and then vote to ratify the budget on, or before, Dec. 1. If the council doesn’t act by that date, the proposed executive budget goes into effect. The complete 2021 executive budget can be viewed on the city’s website at www.jamestownny.gov/budget. A hard copy of the complete budget is also available to review in the mayor’s office, city clerk’s office, and the James Prendergast Library.