The city of Jamestown's budget is very closely watched by city officials.
Within the last several weeks, two California cities have declared bankruptcy, after being faced with issues such as growing pension and health care costs, as well as bonds defaulting. According to Joseph Bellitto, city comptroller, although the financial figures that Jamestown - and many other small cities around the state - face aren't pretty, the city does not foresee declaring bankruptcy anytime in the near future.
The majority of Jamestown's budget covers personnel and costs associated with running the city.
"Basically, (the budget) covers the bare necessities. Primarily, it's public safety. That's what we are truly in existence for. It's for police and fire protection, public works, parks, and then the administration to run everything. We are really in a service business," Bellitto said.
Budgets throughout New York state are tight, however.
"Not to downplay it, but Jamestown and all of the cities throughout New York state, we are in trouble. There is no doubt about that. Budgets are so tight, the state of New York has many financial problems of their own, and they basically pass those down to the local governments," Bellitto said.
State aid to cities has been cut, and unfunded mandates have been set into place, Bellitto said.
"We certainly aren't in the financial situation we would like to be in. Every year, it gets tougher and tougher. It's not like things are rosy, either, but we aren't to the degree where we are anywhere near bankruptcy, thankfully," Bellitto said.
Jamestown has been using its fund balance for several years to help take care of costs of running the city. In past years, although the city has used its fund balance in the budget, it has generated enough revenue to cover what was taken out. However, last year, the budget was so tight that the city was unable to make up for the use of the fund balance.
"If you use your fund balance, you start with a deficit, and you basically budget for a deficit. We came in at a $330,000 deficit last year, and $420,000 of it was because we used fund balance. We were able to overcome a little bit of it, but not the whole $420,000. Last year was our first deficit in a number of years," Bellitto said.
To help keep costs down, and to avoid situations such as declaring bankruptcy, Bellitto said that the city has actively kept an eye on its costs. This has included eliminating nearly 20 percent of the workforce over the last 12 years.
"Reducing people then reduces fringe benefits. It reduces the cost of retirement, social security and health insurance, and all that. So, anything related to payroll is reduced as well," Bellitto said.
Additionally, the city only borrows money when it is absolutely necessary, in order to keep debt down. Over the last several years, this has included borrowing for capital projects. The city has also increased slightly various fees and fines to increase revenues.
"We very carefully look at our highest priority needs for large-ticket items and large capital projects, and we borrow only when necessary for our highest priority," Bellitto said.
The city has borrowed less than 25 percent of what it can borrow legally according to New York state.
"We are nowhere near our debt limit. The borrowing really hasn't been a problem," Bellitto said.
Each year, Bellitto gives a six-month report to City Council, to inform them where Jamestown stands financially. He said that he will be giving the report presentation in just a few weeks.