A Good Job Is Hard To Find
If you are 18 years old and a high school graduate or 20 years old and a recent graduate of JCC, what is the best job available in Chautauqua County? I would recommend applying to the Jamestown Police or Fire Department. You will receive a very good wage and you will be able to retire after 20 years (at age 38 or 40) at half pay, and receive benefits that last for the rest of your life. From a retirement standpoint, it doesn’t get any better than that.
The benefits of working in the police department at the City are so good that county or town employes in law enforcement find that they can do much better if they land a job in the City. It is all good, unless you are a city taxpayer. As property values and income levels of families in the City stagnate-Jamestown citizens are faced with paying the highest salary and benefit levels for public safety of any place in the county. The City has become a public corporation whose primary focus is funding its police and fire departments. (In 2014, just the wages (without benefits) for police and firemen in the city will exceed $10 million. The City’s payment to the state’s police and fire retirement fund is estimated to be an additional $2.5 million.)
Jamestown is not the only City to face this funding problem, it is endemic in other upstate New York cities. The uniformed police and fire unions have been very effective lobbyists in Albany and have achieved many of these benefits through legislation, not just through collective bargaining at the local level.
So how has Jamestown dealt with this issue? In general, it cuts or reduces other services. It asks the state for relief each year, but continues to pay more and more for police and fire services which it can’t afford. According to news reports, for 2014 the City cut or froze its funding for its public library and senior citizen’s center while the budget for wages for the police and fire department budget went up $375,000. There is very little money left for anything else after you are done paying police and firemen.
This newspaper has recommended that the City seek state assistance in restructuring, as has the City of Fulton, New York. That might help. Though we have heard little about plans to reduce the cost of fire services, there was a report this week that there are on-going negotiations to have the County take over City police services.
Townships around the City have much lower costs per capita for both police and fire services. Maybe the City could request a change in its status and become a Township.
Everyone in the area will benefit from a thriving, financially strong Jamestown! Maintaining the status quo, however, especially as it pertains to benefits for fire and police , seems unsustainable.
A Chautauqua County resident interested in analyzing public policy from a long term perspective writes these views under the name Hall Elliot.