Looking Towards 2021
We are entering a new year with new possibilities and enormous challenges. 2020 brought not only a worldwide pandemic, but also unprecedented financial hardships for the City of Jamestown and while there is temptation to say “Good Riddance” to 2020, 2021 may bear out to be just as difficult, if not more so.
At the end of last year, the council passed a budget with over $400,000 being used from the city’s general fund balance to pay for the 2021 Fiscal Year’s expenses. However, with all bargaining units contracts up for negotiation this year, the Kendall Club’s contract payout as awarded by the recent Court of Appeals decision, a huge amount of potential loss of state aid due to lack of federal aid, loss of revenues due to COVID, the city being near the Constitutional Tax Limit, as well as healthcare and retirement costs continuing to rise, the fiscal challenges that face Jamestown are massive and structural.
Over the course of 2020, I presented several changes that were not acted on. These include the Smart Parking initiative, which has been in development with community input for several years. It also included a proposal to eliminate the free parking zones downtown, which while understandably controversial, is something that needs to be revisited given the limited ways the city has available to raise revenues. I also proposed changing providers for retiree healthcare, a move that would save the city over $1 million each year.
While some of these proposals may seem radical, given the state of our city and what we know is on the horizon, it’s time for city government to evolve in ways that may be initially uncomfortable in order to keep providing the services our public requires and deserves. My administration will continue to present proposal after proposal to help secure our city’s future. The time to address these problems is now and not when we are staring down the possibility of a Financial Control Board.
If the City of Jamestown is going to progress and move forward, it is imperative for both the City Council and the City Administration to work closely together. I have started the process to reconvene the Healthcare Advisory Committee, which will include a mix of council members, current union members, retirees, and staff to explore all options related to health insurance coverage and costs. This is just one example of how Council must be part of the process in developing new ideas and opportunities to help lift the city beyond the challenges we are facing.
While I will continue to personally push for new forms of cost-savings and revenue, I am also committed to keeping the door open so that any proposal made by any council member, city staff, or myself is carefully considered by all parties. It is our responsibility to work together make the tough decisions to ensure our city has a prosperous future while still providing excellent services to the community. I ask that council join me in proactively planning for that future.
Mayor Eddie Sundquist is mayor of Jamestown.