2010-04-29 / Front Page

Council votes Monday on new budget

By Phil Zahodiakin

Focusing on the municipal side of town spending, the Jamestown Town Council last week took a final look at the budget proposed for fiscal year 2010-11.

The relatively brief workshop – held on April 22 – was intended to flag any unresolved issues in advance of the council’s May 3 vote on a budget for the town and its schools.

Not surprisingly, the councilors didn’t identify any roadblocks to the vote. Town Administrator Bruce Keiser, who drafted the proposal, kept a tight rein on proposed spending, thereby eliminating potential disagreements among the councilors during earlier budget discussions.

In fact, the $20.9 million spending plan for FY ‘10-’11 is 0.25% less than the spending budgeted for the town and its schools during the current fiscal year. Keiser agreed that fiscal restraint has enabled the runup to the May 3 vote to proceed smoothly.

“We were able to keep the overall spending budget relatively flat,” Keiser told the Press. “We’re proposing a small decrease in spending and a slight increase – 1.18% – in the property tax.”

Keiser also alluded to the possibility that the town will have to re-apply a tax on the first $6,000 in motor vehicle values, which is currently exempted under the state system to “return” that revenue to the towns.

“We do recognize that the governor wants to eliminate the motor vehicle excise tax reimbursement,” he said, “and the General Assembly looks like they will adopt the request and pass that on to the taxpayers, which is regrettable, but it’s due to the serious shortfalls at the state level.”

If the reimbursement is eliminated, Jamestown would have to offset the loss of $440,570 in reimbursements by re-instituting an excise tax on the first $6,000 in value of all Jamestown-registered vehicles – assuming a vehicle is worth $6,000.

The town is also likely to lose its state school aid, but “that won’t present a terrible scenario for us,” Keiser said at the workshop, adding, “If they adopt this ‘Robin Hood’ plan, we would lose $20,000 a year – but we can adjust [the school budget] to that.”

Next year, the town will likely proceed with a plan to close the old landfill – at a projected cost of $800,000.

Council member Ellen Winsor noted that the project “keeps getting pushed back.”

Keiser replied that “our intent is to have the plan available in the next few months, with the goal for starting closure work being the fall of 2011.

“The other variable,” he continued, “is our intent to utilize in-house crews as much as possible; i.e., for earth-moving operations. So, $800,000 is the maximum we’d have to lay out, and we expect to fund it with a 20-year bond – which, at current rates, will cost $60- to $65,000 a year for debt service.”

Another significant expenditure that may be included in the FY 2011-12 budget is infrastructure spending at Ft. Getty.

The council has agreed to spend $20,000 to refurbish both of the restroom and shower facilities at the campground during this fiscal year. However, it is estimated that Ft. Getty needs $1 million worth of repairs to its roads, water pipes and other infrastructure. Town Planner Lisa Bryer and Town Engineer Mike Gray are now devising a plan to move forward with some of the bigger-ticket repairs and upgrades.

First up might be boat ramp improvements, although the $60- to $70,000 cost of that project would be funded primarily by lease revenue from the town’s three waterfront properties – with mooring fees contributing some of the funding, as well.

The appropriations for other infrastructure projects would be drawn from the Ft. Getty capital improvement fund, which currently has a $250,000 balance. The FY ‘10-11 budget proposes to increase the fund by $150,000, with a similar amount added during each subsequent fiscal year out to FY ‘15-’16.

Other notable aspects of the proposed town budget include:

• The budget proposes to eliminate the animal control officer position – a post which costs the town $75,000 a year – for a first-year savings of approximately $35,000. The ACO controversy was not discussed during the April 22 workshop.

• The $450,000 purchase of a replacement fire engine – and the $500,000 cost to construct a North End fire station – were not included in the FY ‘10-‘11 budget, nor any projected budget out to ‘15-‘16.

• The $24,500 requested for a replacement police car has been increased to $26,000. (Keiser told the Press that it is town policy to replace police cars whenever their odometers reach 100,000 miles.)

• The $45,000 for a replacement Senior and Teen Center transportation van has been reduced to $35,000, with the difference to be made up by a fundraising campaign.

• The $30,000 requested for sidewalk repairs has been decreased to $15,000 – with a similar expenditure projected for each subsequent fiscal year out to ‘15-‘16.

• The $26,800 request for fire hose replacement has been split between the next two fiscal years.

If the council adopts the proposed budget as expected on May 3, it will be put to a final vote at the June 7 financial town meeting.

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