Addressing members of the Jamestown City Council on Monday, Mayor Sam Teresi described the ongoing task of crafting a city budget for 2012 in one word - brutal.
But while other cities and towns have reached out for the state's allowance of a tax cap exemption, he confirmed the city will not blink as it stares down a difficult budget process for the coming fiscal year.
"Because of our hard work over the years, in taking the strong and in many cases distasteful medicine right along, we have been able to build that fund balance," Teresi said.
Mayor Sam Teresi discussed prevailing concerns before his scheduled release of the executive budget proposal Friday.
P-J photo by Jason Rodriguez
He pointed to the city's $1.4 million deficit in 2000 that has been turned around to a $3.4 million positive fund balance, as reported in an official audit in September.
He compared the ongoing degree of difficulty with assembling next year's budget to prior struggles for 2001 and 2002. In those earliest trials of Teresi's mayoral tenure, he cited a 20 percent reduction in the city workforce including among the police and fire departments. At the same time there was a significant rise in taxes, he said, however since the middle of last decade the city has worked out a 1.9 percent increase in property taxes annually.
"We are probably in a better condition than many of our colleagues across the state that are also trying do the Herculean job of dealing with the tax cap in the coming year," he said. "while at the same time not having any meaningful and significant mandate relief from the state government."
Teresi said the anticipated rise of the state employee retirement system will cause of rollback of money available for personnel, equipment, road maintenance and "a lot of areas that we cannot do justice to" in terms of funding.
BUDGET TO BE PROPOSED FRIDAY
Finance Committee Chair Vince DeJoy, D-Ward 4, asked Teresi if the city would consider an exemption to the property tax cap.
Recent discussion of such a plan has entered the county legislature in Mayville, proposed by Chairman Fred Croscut, R-Sherman. On Monday, Teresi added that other municipalities throughout the state are headed in that direction, but he said it is not the solution for Jamestown.
"We have been working for past several months to figure out a way to live within that property tax cap," he said. "The reason why we even have a shot where others don't, I believe, is because the hard decisions made by this city council over the past 12 years have been made on both the revenue and expenditure side of the budget."
He said he had not presented his recommendation for a local law that will permit the tax cap override, which he said would need to be presented to the state comptroller before the city could wrap up the passage of its own budget. Teresi added there has traditionally been a resolve to safeguard the city's fund balance until it was most needed. He said "that day has arrived."
In the final moments of budget negotiations last year, DeJoy successfully argued to commit $420,000 of the fund balance this year in order to reduce the city property tax increase to less than one percent. The recent audit showed an unallocated balance of $2.4 million, and a constitutional taxing limit that reached 89.44 percent.
On Friday, the mayor's executive budget committee - which includes City comptroller Joe Bellitto and treasurer Jim Olson - will turn over its proposal to the members of the city council.
DeJoy presented the council's upcoming schedule of budget hearings. Four meetings are scheduled in the time slot preceding the normal work sessions, beginning Oct. 17 with presentations from the Department of Public Work, the Parks, Recreation and Conservation Department, and city Youth Services.