Loss Of Control
There are both revenue sources and expenditures that city government officials have little or no control over in the 2014 budget.
One of these uncontrollable factors is the money the city receives from the state in aid. Aid and incentives the city has received from the state have been flat for the past three budgets, going back to 2011. The city has not received a raise in state aid since 2009, and every year since the payment has either decreased or stayed the same. Since 2009, the city’s state aid has decreased 9.1 percent, going from $5,029,795 to a projected $4,572,280.
“Given the state’s ongoing financial challenges, this figure could prove to be unrealistic and may need to be further reduced as the state Legislature continues to address New York’s projected multi-billion dollar deficit during the coming year,” stated Jamestown Mayor Sam Teresi in his budget message released with the executive budget in October.
Teresi said state aid has been stagnate or lowered because the state has its own fiscal challenges, and needs to cut back. Unfortunately for the 62 cities in the state, state officials are trying to cover their own budget deficit by decreasing aid to municipalities.
“The state is trying to address their issues, cutting back in areas. I don’t agree with the state and, my colleagues across the state agree with me, that cutting back aid to local governments is not the way,” Teresi said.
Teresi said cities, unlike towns and villages, have more required mandates to meet.
“Cities have a disproportionate share of services mandated by the state. We’re asked to do more than towns and villages overall,” he said. “Cities, in particular, are demanded to do the most at the local level.”
Teresi said he understands the money crunch the state is under, which leads to less money for cities throughout the state. However, he said if state officials cannot help with funding, they should at least do away with some of the mandates and restrictions to labor laws.
“There are restrictions from labor laws that makes it difficult, if not impossible, to get out from bad labor agreements from bygone areas, past generations,” he said. “Our feeling is there should be an adjustment in revenues. If there is not going to be an adjustment, and there is a reduction, then assist local governments with some of the mandates and labor laws driving costs higher that have a significant impact on our budgets.”
COUNTY WORKERS’ COMPENSATION PROGRAM
Teresi is seeing an increase in workers’ compensation costs, which is shared among cities, towns and villages in Chautauqua County. The fiscal year 2014 executive budget contains an allocation of $435,000 to cover expenses associated with the city’s participation in the workers’ compensation program operated by county officials. Teresi said this is a $110,000 increase compared to the amount appropriated for 2013 and a $125,120, or 40 percent, higher increase than what was paid to the county in 2010.
Teresi said he knows county officials have little control over the costs for workers’ compensation.
“The county doesn’t have control of things affecting workers’ compensation costs. Things are beyond their control like the rate of injuries by employees,” he said.
However, Teresi said he has been critical in the past of how the program procedure. He said he was an opponent of the third-party administrator, which county officials stopped using in the last couple years. Since the change, Teresi said he has noticed an improvement.
“We are happy with the changes, to the county’s credit. We have to give credit where credit is due. It is now heading in a better direction,” he said. “We will continue to work with (county officials) to have even more input moving forward.”
Another factor controlled by the county government that affects the city’s budget is sales tax revenue. Teresi said the county controls what the sales tax rate is and how it is applied, with the state’s approval.
“They can take sales tax off of certain items, and reduce taxation on utilities and gasoline. They control the sales tax,” he said. “This is something out of our control. Yet another variable that is out of our control. As we go forward, we have to be mindful of things like this. It is an example of how things could happen to us with little or no notice.”
“We’re asked to do more than towns and villages overall.”