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Lawmakers credit cooperation for tax rate decrease

Jamestown lawmakers praised an atmosphere of cooperation for producing a tax rate decrease for a second year in a row, as the Council approved a $30.5 million budget for 2008.
The action taken Monday night cuts the full-value tax rate by 26 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

Council President Tony Dolce said the surprise was that the tax decrease was actually a couple of pennies lower than anticipated once Comptroller Joe Bellitto did some recalculations.

Dolce credited Mayor Sam Teresi for providing a lean budget proposal and Council members for working in a bipartisan manner to find ways to cut taxes further.

"I think the big key was taking that contingency fund, which we had over $150,000 in, and taking some of the capital and equipment projects out of the 2008 and buying them with money left over from this year," he said.

Dolce, who noted $50,000 was used from the fund balance to offset the tax bite, pointed out that he and Finance Committee Chairwoman Lynda Albert huddled with Teresi and his financial aides before the final spending plan was approved.

Teresi, however, sounded a note of caution about some big expenses anticipated in 2009.

"Contract expenses, debt service expenses, retirement expenses and additional retirements [are] coming up," the mayor said, "and quite frankly, our goal was to preserve and protect that fund balance as much as possible to help us over the rough humps in the coming years."

Teresi's original budget proposal featured a tax increase of 6 cents per $1,000.
The new spending plan also cuts the tax levy by more than $90,000. Teresi said that he will not veto the budget but doesn't plan to sign it. The spending plan take effects within five business days of Council passage.

In other news, lawmakers agreed to waive the city's hiring freeze in two instances: the hiring of a police officer and a typist.

Council approved the new police officer after learning that eight officers are currently inactive because of illness, disability or accidents. Most recently, Traffic Officer Glenn Boskat was critically injured in the crash of his patrol car.

Teresi said funding for the cost of a new officer, estimated at $62,000 in 2008, will not come from the contingency account.
"The hiring of the additional police officer was contingent on the department finding other forms of savings within [its] 2008 budget in order to pay for that additional staff person," he said.
Dolce said lawmakers also will keep an eye on money left over at the end of the year. Also, Police Chief Rex Rater said he will examine the department's budget for extra funding.

The full-time typist, also for the Police Department, will be funded through a grant.

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