JAMESTOWN – Mayor Sam Teresi said the city may have to appeal a recent ruling by an independent panel stating that the City of Jamestown must pay a two percent salary hike to members of the Jamestown Kendall Club, the city’s police union, retroactive to the 2016 and 2017 years by Dec. 15.
In an interview Thursday with WNYNewsNow, Teresi said that data collected by the city shows that the it’ll be impossible for the taxpayers to cover the burden.
“Our feeling, our calculations, the data that we have, show that there is absolutely no ability whatsoever on the part of the taxpayers to pay a retroactive increase back to January 1, 2016,” Teresi said. “We are going to have to internally look at, and discuss with ourselves, as to whether we have the resources to go ahead and comply with the decision.”
“It’s not a matter of whether we want to or not, it’s a matter of can we, and the resources simply aren’t there.”
When asked if he’d have to adjust his 2019 tentative budget to reflect the necessary payments, Teresi said that may also be impossible.
“I’m not sure how the tentative budget can be tweaked because there’s not enough savings in there by cutting other things to pay for such a lopsided increase,” Teresi said. “There’s no other revenue to be derived because we are at our constitutional tax limit.”
“We do not have the option of going and laying off parks and DPW workers because they’re under contract with minimum staffing agreements as part of their contracts, and there’s not enough other savings in the budget to pay that kind of hefty raise.”
Teresi said that 77 percent of the staffing in the city is under “no-layoff orders” by either contracts or court orders imposed on the city, and police and firefighters are part of that staffing.
Independent arbitrator Howard Foster and union representative John Crotty both concurred with the prevision, while City Clerk Todd Thomas dissented.
Thomas and the City of Jamestown argued that the city has reached its constitutional tax limit, therefore, a raise would be impossible. The union, however, said that the city could use resources, such as dividend payments from the Jamestown Board of Public Utilities, to pay for a salary hike.
“The city cannot increase taxes, cannon unilaterally alter the (BPU tax equivalency), and cannot budget a (BPU) dividend where there are insufficient profits or knowledge of profits. In short, the city lacks the ability to pay a substantial wage increase,” Thomas wrote. “Apart from a general inability to pay, the evidence was insufficient to prove that the Union requires an increase in wages.
The ruling comes after the city and the union failed to reach an agreement for a new collective bargaining agreement for the years 2016 and 17.
The full 44-page report can be found here.