City Council Approves 2014 Budget

City property owners will experience a tax increase next year.

On Monday, Jamestown City Council passed next year’s fiscal plan, which includes a 2.04 percent tax levy hike. The tax levy is the money collected through property taxes. The tax levy will be $14,732,936 next year, which is an increase of $295,109. The 2014 total budget will be $33,511,338, which is a $293,203 jump, or 1 percent rise.

Even though there is a tax increase, the amount has been lowered since the release of Jamestown Mayor Sam Teresi’s executive budget on Oct. 8. City Council, through budget deliberations during work session meetings, has cut an additional $91,811 out of the fiscal plan. On Nov. 18, council voted to reduce the amount of money appropriated for the contingency fund and claims both by $20,000. So far in 2013, less money has been spent in both of these funds than what was allocated by the council last year.

Last week, an additional total of $18,864 was also reduced from the city’s Fire, Police and Public Works department budgets. These reductions go along with the first reduction in the proposed fiscal plan from earlier this month when council cut more than $32,000 from the budget. This reduction was made from money saved by having an improved bond rating, which lowered the interest rate for refinancing the Main and Cherry streets parking garage ramp project.

Teresi said, after the meeting, he will not stop any of the changes made by City Council. He said the adjustments made by City Council in the budget were reasonable moves to make.

“I don’t have any intention to veto any line item in the budget,” he said.

Anthony Dolce, Ward 2 city councilman and finance chairman, said city policymakers don’t want to raise taxes, but with costs increasing and no relief on state mandates, the budget process is getting tougher each year. He said the big adjustment city council wanted to make in the budget was to lower the tax rate increase to less than 2 percent. With the changes made last week, the tax rate will increase 41 cents to $22.04 per $1,000 assessed property value. The tax rate increase is a 1.9 percent hike.

“We were able to whittle it down,” Dolce said. “It is getting more and more difficult each year.”

An area of next year’s spending plan still in questions is the Jamestown Board of Public Utilities dividend payment. The BPU board has yet to approve the dividend payment and will not be meeting again until Tuesday, Dec. 3, after the Dec. 1 deadline for the City Council to approve a fiscal plan. The budget council approved Monday includes $475,000 in BPU electric and water revenues. The budget proposes taking $400,000 from the electric and $75,000 from water profits.

Teresi said on Monday it is reasonable every year to look at using BPU revenues toward the city’s budget depending on how much money the utility makes.

“Once in a blue moon, it is reasonable to do,” he said. “We will look at this on a year-to-year basis.”

Last year, the nine-member BPU board passed the dividend payment by a vote of 6-3. In the 2013 city budget, $300,000 was used from electric and $120,000 was used from water revenues. This was the first dividend payment made to the city in more than a half-century.