Council Adopts 2024 City Budget With Numerous Amendments
Though some concerns were raised, the Jamestown City Council on Monday unanimously approved the 2024 city budget that holds the line on taxes. More than a dozen amendments to the $40.15 million executive budget were brought forward and then unanimously approved by the council.
Afterward, Tony Dolce, R-Ward 2 and council president, thanked the council for “their diligent work” on the budget.
“It’s always a very difficult process,” Dolce said. “People can always argue this, that. Should we cut this? Should we add to that? Everybody always has their priorities and their agendas. … This is still a no-tax-increase budget; we just kind of rearranged the furniture a little bit internally in there.”
Councilwoman Kim Ecklund, R-At Large, who is chair of the city’s Finance Committee, also commended the effort. “I do want to thank everyone — including the mayor, the staff, this council — for working through this (and) listening to everything,” she said. “It’s not easy, especially when you have new people and they’re still trying to learn the job and understand what’s going on. So, thank you for your patience.”
In all, 15 amendments were brought forward by the council. A handful limited the pay increases Mayor Eddie Sundquist had proposed in his executive budget to department heads. Ecklund noted that the mayor had requested “considerable raises” to the various city leaders.
After some review, the council members decided to lower the raises — including to the city clerk, engineer, corporation counsel and comptroller — to 2.5% so they would fall in line with the unions they represent.
The council also removed a request by the Jamestown Police Department to purchase an unmarked vehicle at a cost of $41,870. Three other vehicles the department requested were kept in the budget.
In another amendment, the council voted to decrease the real property tax revenue line by $250,000. Ecklund explained that the revenue line was altered due to properties either in the process of being demolished or are scheduled to be demolished that were not removed from the assessed value.
Council members also reduced the sidewalk repair fund from $200,000 to $150,000.
Ecklund, who won election for mayor earlier this month, said none of the changes were a surprise to the city’s department heads; she said she met with the city leaders prior to Monday’s voting session.
Afterward, Sundquist told reporters his “one area of concern (on the budget that was adopted) is the continual lowering of salaries for our department heads.”
He added, “It’s becoming increasingly more difficult to be able to hire, especially when the city has very low wages for management employees as compared to other municipalities across the state.”
In his executive budget, Sundquist said salaries were requested closer to the average of other municipalities based on a report from one of the city’s lobbying firms.
“To see those get cut, it’s only going to make it more difficult to continue to hire for those positions,” he said.
Asked if he planned to veto any of the amendments, Sundquist responded, “Well, I got five days to take a look at it and review. But, as of right now, none of the amendments really stood out at this point.”
During a work session meeting prior to Monday’s voting session, Ecklund said she had reviewed the 2024 budget with Joe Bellitto, former city comptroller. She noted that Bellitto had “some very strong concerns looking at the budget.”
She said Bellitto, who is part of her transition team as mayor-elect, is going to review the 2023 budget and next year’s spending plan over the next two weeks.
Ecklund said Dec. 11 could be used to make further changes to the budget and also vote to potentially override any vetoes Sundquist may bring.
She said one of her main concerns with the 2024 budget is “hitting some of those revenue items” that were projected, noting specifically property and sales taxes.
“I think I’ll feel better after I have Joe (Bellitto) look at it,” she said.
On Monday, the City Council also passed a local law that increases the maximum income eligibility level for residents 65 and over to receive property tax relief to $22,000. “I’m sure this is going to help some of our senior citizens here in Jamestown,” Councilman Jeff Russell, R-At Large, said.
A donation of $5,500 from Rand Precision Machining was accepted as well. The funds will go to the police department toward the purchase of new equipment, including a breaching ram and drone.