Recommended Raises For City Council, Mayor Should Be Rejected

There have been some interesting articles in The Post-Journal lately. Of major concern is we are taxed to our constitutional limit and we are broke! Our police officers were requesting an increase, city officials said we have no money, and an arbitration board gets involved and rules in favor of the increase (even though we have no money). On December 5, 2018, the Salary Review Commission met for about a half hour and recommended a salary increase of 18.1 percent for the mayor position ( $72,000 to $85,000 ), and 100 percent increases for City Council members ($5,000 to $10,000 ) and, I repeat, we are broke. And guess who appoints the Salary Review Commission — the mayor and City Council does. What is wrong with this picture! The cold hard facts are it’s not what a person is worth or “what other communities pay” it’s what the taxpayers of Jamestown can afford.

That being said there are some points which should be mentioned regarding the vote to appeal and the ruling itself. According to the City of Jamestown’s 2018 and 2019 budget summary it takes about one hundred thousand dollars per day ($100,000.00) probably more, each and every day to operate this city with salaries and benefits representing almost 80 percent of the revenue, and we are broke. The three member arbitration panel consisted of the city administrative director, police union representative and an independent arbitrator. The vote was 2 to 1 in favor of the 2 percent increase and, I repeat, we are broke. Two votes were predictable but the third vote was a dozy and quite disappointing. The vote forced our city to spend no more than $25,000 for legal services to help with the appeal process and, I repeat, we are broke. The financial condition of the city was supposed to weigh heavily of the board’s decisions, but I guess it did not. One vote was against appealing the decision. I think he was trying to tell us something.

It is disappointing that individuals who are entrusted to manage the city’s finances for the taxpayers could consider increases using such specious arguments like “they haven’t had an increase in a while” or “what other communities pay” when we have been taxed to our constitutional limit, and in the same breath turn down increases for our boys in blue because we are broke. “When (this recommendation]) is presented to the City Council I think we have to talk about the question of equity, because that’s so important. There has not been another employee working in the city of Jamestown that has not received some increase in their salary and I think that’s very important to state, because this is about equity,” someone said.

Other commission members pointed out that even with the recommended increase the salary for the mayor’s position would still not be in line with other communities of similar size across the state and what they pay their mayor and/or city manager. I wonder if the other communities are broke also?

I would like to know which communities we are drawing a comparison from. Some like to use Ithaca, New York. However, according to the Office of the New York state Comptroller, Ithaca’s population in 1950 was 29,257 where Jamestown’s was 43,354. Now Jamestown’s population is around 30,000 (benefit of the doubt) and Ithaca’s population is over 31,000 Furthermore our tax rate per $1,000 is $23.87 and Ithaca’s tax rate is $11.60. Hardly a fair comparison.

And the issue of attracting the best qualified candidates was brought up, with the commission agreeing that a higher salary will bring in a larger pool of potential candidates for the mayor’s office and City Council in future years. What problem are you trying to solve using that strategy? Lets increase the salaries and maybe we can get some Machiavellians from other states or communities to come in and fix our problems. That’s like putting an artificial limb on a cadaver. That won’t solve anything. Take a break from downtown Jamestown and ride around the perimeter of the city. The neighborhoods are falling apart and in serious decay.

As we get close to politicking time how about answering a few relevant questions. How did we get in to this situation (broke)? Who is responsible for making us broke? What is your plan to improve our financial condition without increasing taxes? Do you intend to review our expenses which are about $100,000.00 a day? Do you even have a cost effective plan? What is your plan to rebuild our decaying neighborhoods without increasing taxes? And don’t blame it on Albany. The cold hard facts are it’s not what a person is worth or “what other communities pay” it’s what the taxpayers of Jamestown can afford. It’s just simple math 101. If the residents of this community just keep sucking it up without objection because they are too apprehensive to speak up then shame on you. You live here also. How about helping out.

Stockton, California, Bridgeport, Connecticut, Vallejo, California, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Alabama, Central Falls, Rhode Island, Desert Hot Springs, California, Detroit, Michigan, are cities that have filed for bankruptcy protection. Maybe the only no vote to appeal the salary increases was trying to tell us something. Drastic measures might be needed to financially turn our city around. It’s very disheartening to hear about our financial woes when there are so many that have so much, thanks to the taxpayers of this fine city. The city budget speaks for itself. Eighty (80 cents) of every dollar is for salaries and benefits, our constitutional taxing limit been reached, over $100,000.00 a day of revenue spent and we are “busted, disgusted and can’t be trusted as the song goes”. What kind of shape would we be in if Albany had not allocated $50,787,782 to Jamestown in school aid for the 2019-20 school year? This is getting to be serious stuff folks.

And some want to give increases to a selective few with superficial plausible methods which they argue might work. Quit worrying about increases for yourselves and take into consideration the over 29,000 residents who live here. I’m a taxpayer and pay taxes for three properties. You folks may take this Letter to the Editor as a no vote.

Bruce Piatz is a Jamestown resident.