JAMESTOWN – Jamestown Mayor Eddie Sundquist informed City Council Monday evening that he is vetoing two parts of their approved 2021 budget operating budget, one of which called for the elimination of the Recreation Coordinator Position held by Julia Ciesla-Hanley.
Sundquist, in his official veto message, says the elimination of Ciesla-Hanley’s position could be a detriment following the possible rollout of a COVID-19 vaccine in 2021.
“While COVID-19 and the ensuing cancellations of events both this past year and next have given the Parks and Recreation Coordinator position less to do, it is with little foresight that the Council cut this position,” Sundquist said. “If, as anticipated, there is a wide and effective
COVID-19 vaccine rollout next year, events may be able to resume as they would in a normal year, and suddenly we would have no one to plan, coordinate, and administer these events.”
“Council has chosen to lay off exactly one position, and while this move that will save the City $53,000 next year, it will end valuable, beloved programs such as City baseball and the playground program as well as any fees the Parks generate in revenue,” he continued. “On average, this particular position brings in over $25,000 in revenue to our Parks from pavilion & park rental fees, leagues, and other grant funding sources. The fulltime workload that this position engages in during the peak spring and summer season cannot simply be shifted to an employee in another department (which would also lessen the cost savings to the City further as that employee will have to make more due to the extra responsibilities).
“I strongly urge City Council not to override my veto and to continue to fund an essential position to maintaining our wonderful park system in-tact, and will provide the necessary capacity to search for and apply for grants while we await normal recreational activities to resume.”
The second veto involves the Council-approved Fund Balance Appropriations Amount of $436,138.53. Sundquist says an appropriate amount would be $490,111,79.
Sundquist says that he appreciates the Council coming up with different solutions during a difficult 2020, despite not including many of his original proposals. The Mayor, however says that the Council’s budget represents the past rather than the future.
“(However) this budget represents the continuation of the status quo in the City of Jamestown, which is something that cannot continue for much longer,” Sundquist said. “Heading into this year, the City had a general fund balance of $3.9 million, which will be sorely needed after a challenging year, where we face a deficit of up to $1.5 million, and next year where the Council has earmarked taking over $400,000 from the general fund to offset expenditures. I cannot emphasize enough how much fiscal stress the City is now under.
“With bare bones staffing in every department, there are no employees that can be cut without a massive reduction in City services, which have already been cut to the absolute minimum to save jobs. Our Police and Fire unions are still without contracts from 2016 and when finally decided, new contracts will add hundreds of thousands of dollars to the City’s recurring expenditures. The City is barely under the state constitutional tax limit, limiting how much further revenue the City can generate. And healthcare costs have skyrocketed, especially for our retirees, with the City facing over $160 million in long-term, unfunded liabilities.”
Sundquist is warning City Council that a Financial Control Board from outside of the City of Jamestown may need to intervene if the financial woes of the City don’t improve.
“This is the reality facing us. If we want to be a City not controlled by outside forces, we must take action to determine our own destiny. My office has been looking into additional ways to cost-save and generate additional revenue outside of our tax base. We must continue to take a hard look at how we can continue to save money and this process has made me realize that being as open and inclusive as possible is the only way we can move forward together, as the elected leadership of the City.”
“For the first time in years, and based on the recommendations of our Unions, I will be reappointing the Healthcare Committee of the City to look at potential cost-savings in our health care plans and work with representatives from the Council and union leadership to participate in detailed discussions on plans moving forward and take our time to ensure that any changes to healthcare are truly the best thing for the city, its employees, and its retirees. I encourage the Council to reach out and work with each other, all staff, retirees, and community members to find additional revenues or cost-savings measures. This is an all hands-on-deck moment. I appreciate your leadership in this difficult time.”