No One Attends City Tax Cap Public Hearing

Whether or not city officials exceed the state’s tax levy cap is generating no reaction from the public.

On Thursday, city officials held a public hearing to gather comment from residents about the possibility of exceeding the cap. Joining Jamestown Mayor Sam Teresi and James Olson, city clerk, was just one news reporter from The Post-Journal. Teresi said during the public hearing, which lasted only a couple minutes, that also no city residents wrote, emailed or telephoned the mayor’s office with comment on possibly exceeding the cap.

On Tuesday, the mayor released his executive budget, which included a tax increase. The tax levy increase – money raised through property taxes – is $386,920, or 2.68 percent. The tentative tax levy total is $14,824,747. The tax rate is being proposed to increase by 55 cents, to a total of $22.18 per $1,000 assessed property value. The total budget increased $385,014, or 1.6 percent, to a total of $33,603,149.

Teresi said the city is $63,505 under the tax cap for the 2014 Jamestown budget. The state’s property tax levy cap law went into effect in 2011. Under this law, the growth in the property tax levy is capped at 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less. The mayor said because the rate of inflation is lower than 2 percent, the state’s tax cap for all municipalities is 1.6 percent. This cap then can be adjusted for each individual municipality based on several factors including municipal bond debt payments to how much lower the city was to the previous year’s tax cap. The city’s actual cap is 3.1 percent.

Teresi said he does not believe city officials will exceed the tax cap during budget deliberations. However, in case there is a calculation error in the budget or the spending plan passed by City Council exceeds the tax levy limit, the procedure recommended to municipalities is to pass a local law to exceed the tax cap.

The release of the executive’s budget is the start of a three-month process. By Dec. 1, the Jamestown City Council needs to pass a budget or the original executive budget goes into effect for the city’s fiscal year, which is Jan. 1 to Dec. 31. Teresi said the legislative branch – City Council – has authority over the budget. The council will start budget worksessions on Monday, Oct. 21, and work through each department’s budget to finalize a spending plan. If the council adopts the budget by the Dec. 1 deadline, Teresi then has a week to decide if he will veto any line item in the budget. If Teresi does veto an item, the council then will have a chance to override with a supermajority vote.