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Lack Of Funds May Limit Special Events In City

The bingo hall was packed at the 2019 Labor Day Festival at Bergman Park. P-J file photo

A significant reduction in overtime and for part-time employees has the city’s parks manager concerned about whether there will be any special events held in the city in 2021.

On Monday, the Jamestown City Council held its first budget deliberations on the proposed 2021 executive budget, which was released by Jamestown Mayor Eddie Sundquist earlier this month, with the department heads in the Parks and Public Works departments.

John Williams, city parks manager, said there is significantly less funding for overtime and part-time employees in the proposed budget than in past years, which means there is not enough money for special events like the Easter Egg Hunt, Halloween Fun Fest and the Christmas parade.

Another slated event happening in the city next year is the 2021 Babe Ruth 13-year-old World Series. Kim Ecklund, At-Large councilwoman and Jamestown Babe Ruth Committee vice president and public relations division director, said the organizers of the Babe Ruth World Series intend to play next year in the city even if the COVID-19 pandemic is still ongoing.

“This is concerning to me,” she said about the lack of funding in the proposed 2021 budget to help support special events in the city.

Williams said parks officials are trying to do right by holding these events for children. He said no one knows what will happen in 2021 because of the pandemic, but more overtime and part-time employee funding needs to be in next year’s budget to assist organizations who host special events in the city.

“All of these events are a concern to me,” Williams said. “They’re here for the kids. We’re trying to do the right thing by the kids. Some how, some way we need to have these events.”

Jeff Lehman, city public works director, said the city will “budget itself into a corner” if there isn’t any funding for special events. Ecklund added the organizations that host special events, other than the city, will have to raise all of the funding necessary if there is no financing in the city budget.

“An event like Labor Day will have to find a sponsor or multiple sponsors,” she said.

Lehman said a reduction in over-time funding is also a concern when it comes to Public Works Department services like plowing snow. He said last year city officials got lucky with a mild winter so there wasn’t as much appropriated for overtime as during a typical winter.

The council will continue its budget deliberations prior to its voting session meeting Monday at 6:30 p.m.

The proposed 2021 executive budget 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 the 2021 proposed budget is $1.66 million less than the 2020 spending plan.

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.

In other business during the council’s work session meeting, Ryan Thompson, city comptroller, presented a third-quarter finance report. He said there was good news for the city when it comes to sales tax revenues during the months of August, September and October. He said sales tax revenues increased 2.91% over last year’s third-quarter results. He added that the positive sales tax revenues results are mainly due to tax now being collected on online purchases.

Thompson said so far for the year the city is only $21,000 below last year’s sales tax revenues results through the first nine months of the year, which is good news because of the pandemic that caused much of the economy to be shutdown for several months.

On the expenditure side of the ledger, Thompson said with a new contract for the Civil Service Employees Association Local 1000 employees, salaries have increased, which has put additional pressure on the budget. However, on the positive side, he said health insurance claims are 8% lower through September than in 2019.

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