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MAYOR ASKS TAX HIKE OF $5.93 PER $1,000

For the second year in a row, Mayor Richard Kimball has urged a tax increase of nearly $6 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

Kimball on Monday night outlined a $22.3 million spending proposal for 1998, which would boost the tax rate by $5.93 per $1,000, or 12.9 percent. Spending is up by $731,000, mainly the result of negotiated salary increases with city unions, Kimball said.

The mayor also took aim at the Council for cutting his 1997 budget back last year to reduce the tax increase to under $1.

"The financial problems facing the City of Jamestown have not gone away," he said.

The mayor said his proposed 1997 tax increase of $5.96 "would have provided for needed capital expenditures, would have maintained the level of services our citizens had come to expect and deserve, and would have prepared for our future by stabilizing the tax rate. I warned you that we would have to pay sooner or later."

At the same time, Kimball acknowledged that the tight budget approved by the Council last year forced the administration to tighten up.

"I have made sure that our department heads held the line on their budgets," he said. "We have reduced overtime costs. We have absorbed positions through retirement and reduced the total number of city employees."

As a result, the mayor said, the city will close 1997 with an estimated $100,000 fund balance.

Council Finance Committee Chairman Andrew Johnson Jr., D-at-large, called the mayor's budget proposal "a disappointment."

"Taxpayers and businesspeople in this community feel that is absolutely the wrong direction for the city to be heading," he said. "From my brief review of his proposal, it seems to lack any creative initiative, any merging of departments and any real sharing of service."

Johnson added that "the Council did leave additional money in the pension system, and when that expense came in lower, we paid off an additional $200,000 in city debt, and on top of that, we are still going to end up in the black, so I think we're in good shape."

The Council's budget-review process will get under way Monday night.

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