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2001 SURPLUS WON'T ERASE TAX INCREASE

City lawmakers learned Jamestown may finish fiscal year 2001 with a budget surplus, but it likely won't be enough to erase what is shaping up as a major tax increase.

Council President Michael Mistretta said the city's financial managers indicated there will be a revenue shortfall in 2002 because state aid will be capped at this year's level.

Mistretta said Council members learned at their first budget session Monday night that some money might be left over from a one-time $1 million grant from the state. The grant, under the distressed cities aid program, came through the office of Assemblyman William Parment, D-North Harmony.

"We may be finishing the 2001 budget out possibly with a surplus of between $200,000 and $300,000," Mistretta said. "Now, obviously, we still have the fourth quarter of this year to go, and that number could change."

Mistretta also pointed out that this year's sales tax revenues are down between 3 and 4 percent because of the sluggish economy. Mayor Sam Teresi has noted the city has an accumulated debt of $1.37 million still on the books.

The city's big three departments -- fire, police and public works -- were asked to bring their budget figures for the current year to the meeting to provide a "starting point" for lawmakers. Teresi initially presented a $28.2 million budget that included a tax rate increase of $24.08 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

Though Mistretta indicated that figure is probably a realistic outline of where the city is, such a large tax increase is "unacceptable." The 2001 budget of $25.1 million included a $4.97 per $1,000 tax increase. Following Monday's meeting, he said no final decisions were reached.

"We're really at the point of, again, trying to gather some additional information to try and get a better understanding (of spending), and then really look at all the different components that are going to make up the 2002 budget," he said.

Mistretta said the next budget session has been set for 5 p.m. Monday.

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