The 2013 tentative budget for the city of Jamestown reflects a 6.44 percent increase in the tax rate.
Mayor Sam Teresi held a budget hearing on Tuesday to present the 2013 Executive Operating Budget and Capital Improvement Program.
The $33,451,835 budget included a tax levy increase of $896,472, which is 6.26 percent more than the 2012 budget level.
Mayor Sam Teresi unveils his 2013 budget during a budget hearing. Also pictured are Paul Whitford, D-Ward 6; Council President Greg Rabb, D-At Large, and Joseph Bellitto, city comptroller.
P-J photo by Liz Skoczylas
"At the outset, I think that we can, we must and we will do better, working together over the course of the next several weeks, exploring both sides of the budget equation, the revenue side and the expenditure side," Teresi said. "We have been about as aggressive as we can in virtually all of the areas - and, in some cases, overly aggressive - in virtually all of the areas on the revenue side of the equation."
The budget also reflects a decrease of $293,015 from the amount budgeted for 2012 for employee salaries. This is due to a salary freeze for all management positions and bargaining unit employees. However, there is an increase of $593,000 for contracted employees and retiree benefits. Additionally, there is a $100,000 increase associated with Jamestown's mandatory participation in the State Retirement System.
Several items in the budget are remaining flat, with no increase or decrease from the 2012 budget. The appropriation for street lighting and heating of parking decks, acquisition and replacement of city equipment and capital projects remain flat.
"We are not investing in ourselves as we should, because we can't afford it," Teresi said. "The more that you've got to put into the retirement system - you go from $129,000 to $4.5 million in the retirement system, virtually overnight - you've got to make that type of massive reallocation of resources."
Funding for agency contracts - which includes the Prendergast Library, Fenton History Center and Senior Citizens Center - was also reduced by $2,200. The funding for this comes out of the budget for the Fenton History Center.
"In a budget like this, choices need to be made," Teresi said. "I would strongly, strongly recommend against creating any new salary lines in this budget for agencies that are currently not being funded out of this budget, particularly when we can't do justice to those that we have a responsibility to now."
Teresi also included what he called a "very reluctant" $175,000 appropriation from the unassigned general fund balance. The general fund balance currently holds $1,058,149. Additionally, a $215,000 appropriation has been made for debt service hold harmless, bringing the total fund balance usage to $390,000. Teresi predicts that if this is used, the general fund balance would run out by 2014.
"I think that there are ways that we can work together, and I look forward to working with the council to see if we can bring this down below the tax levy cap imposed by the state," Teresi said. "We can't just be out there dealing in fantasy land, as once was the practice in city government. We need to be out there making choices ... Wishful thinking is not a solution to our problems."
In attendance for the presentation were Paul Whitford, D-Ward 6; Greg Rabb, D-President-At Large; Joe Bellitto, city comptroller; James Olson, city clerk; Jeffrey Lehman, director of public works; Harry Snellings, police chief; and Chet Harvey, Jamestown Fire Department deputy fire chief.
Copies of the budget book are available for public review in the mayor's office, city clerk's office and at the reference desk of the Prendergast Library. The executive summary of the budget is available online at jamestownny.net.
City Council has until Dec. 1 to adopt a budget. Its next work session will be Monday at 7:30 p.m.