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The City’s Surplusses Shouldn’t Be Budgeted For Debt Service

Jamestown City Council members have an opportunity to approve a capital spending program when they meet at the end of the month.

If the program can be implemented with no impact to the city budget, we hope council members back Mayor Sam Teresi’s plan. Not only will is it expected to result in nearly $600,000 a year in recurring savings to the city budget as projects are implemented, there is a legitimate benefit to the public by undertaking this work.

Earlier this year, we wondered what would happen if city residents call 911 but fire trucks can’t respond. Approving the capital program helps answer that question. Teresi plans to purchase two new trucks at a cost of $470,000 and refurbish the city’s lead ladder truck at a cost of $300,000. While we will write more on this particular topic tomorrow, we note too the inclusion of two new ambulances to go along with the city’s existing ambulance unit. The ambulances cost $200,000 each. When alarms ring out, city firefighters need to be able to have the equipment needed to respond.

The same is true of Public Works equipment, particularly in a city like Jamestown that gets a lot of snow each year. A plow truck being taken off the streets for maintenance in the middle of January means streets aren’t plowed as quickly, creating unsafe conditions for all of us. Newer equipment will help city employees do their jobs better, which benefits the taxpaying public.

That logic holds true for water mains that are replaced before they break and cause hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage or sewer lines that are replaced before they fail.

The central garage, meanwhile, will reduce spending each year by allowing the city’s mechanics to do more of the city’s repair work while also allowing the city to potentially create a revenue stream by partnering with other public entities like the Jamestown Public Schools, Jamestown Community College or Jamestown Board of Public Utilities.

Of course, the kicker is paying off the bond. Because Jamestown doesn’t have an ability to raise taxes, council members must be confident that the payments can be structured so that the city’s debt service can be paid with existing money. That’s especially important considering the city is likely going to have to pay retroactive pay increases to city police officers and, eventually, to city firefighters whenever binding arbitration proceedings begin. In our opinion, the modest surplusses the city has seen in the last two budgets likely shouldn’t be budgeted for debt service.

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