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Administrator Releases 2016 Recommended Budget

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Administrator Releases 2016 Recommended Budget

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Tompkins County Administrator Joe Mareane has delivered to the County Legislature a 2016 Recommended County Budget that maintains services, reinvests in infrastructure, addresses organizational pressure points, and remains within the County’s projected property tax cap.

In his annual Budget Message to the Legislature, Administrator Mareane notes that the Budget reflects both the effects of the improving economy and a return on investment from what has been done to make the County stronger.  “The Recommended Budget raises the County property tax levy by just 1.3%--well below the final State-imposed tax cap of 1.8%.  Even at that restrained level of growth, the Budget supports current levels of service and provides additional funding for items or activities that improve productivity, customer service, the condition of our infrastructure, or the sustainability of the organization—the things that make us stronger, but not bigger.

“The Recommended Budget represents an assurance to the community that needed services will remain secure and affordable,” Mareane continues.  “The budget is balanced with a tax rate that will go down in 2016—from $6.86 per $1,000 to $6.74 per $1,000.  Acknowledging that assessed values are also rising alongside the strengthening local economy, the average homeowner will pay an additional $15.36 next year for County taxes and $4 more in solid waste fees.”

The Recommended Budget supports total expenditures of $171 million (an increase of 0.8%, after an accounting adjustment in the way in which bond in which anticipation notes are calculated), and local dollar spending of $85 million (an increase of 1.9%). 

Reflecting effects to the Budget from the recovering economy, Mareane notes that the local cost of several state-mandated human service programs is falling for the first time in memory, commodities costs are constrained by near-zero inflation, and sales tax is projected to rebound modestly next year after the surprisingly poor performance in the first half of 2015.  The Budget also benefits from the County’s prior policy and fiscal decisions—among them, efforts to constrain the rapidly growing cost of health care reflected in stable fringe benefit costs; funding for technology and training to help sustain services with a smaller workforce; efficiency initiatives that have reduced energy costs; and Legislature fiscal policies that have led to high credit ratings and low interest on debt. 

Among major influences on the Recommended Budget,

  • Labor Costs:   The County workforce stands at 7.2% below the level of 2009.  Labor agreements for 2016 in place for nearly all County employees have resulted in average wage growth of 2.25% for 2016.  Reasonable measures, developed through good-faith negotiations, to moderate the growth of health care costs build upon ongoing benefits from the County’s participation in the Greater Tompkins County Municipal Health Insurance Consortium, representing an important source of stability in the 2016 budget.  Overall, County workforce will decline by two positions, with three new positions recommended—in Finance, Emergency Response, and Assessment. $140,000 is recommended to be added for Sheriff’s overtime costs at the Jail.
  • Mandates:  Local costs for State-mandated human service programs are expected to fall by $637,000 from 2015—a $1 million decline in the Department of Social Services, with a $409,000 increase in local costs for the Health Department’s PreK Special Education program, the largest single source of growth in the 2016 budget.
  • Vehicle Replacement:  A $580,000 increase is recommended in the allocation for vehicle purchases, to offset the earlier need to defer vehicle purchases during the recession.
  • Capital Reinvestment:  The Budget adheres to the County’s policy to increase the property tax levy by 0.5% each year to support capital investment—$231,000, or more than a third of the proposed 1.3% property tax levy, is dedicated to capital reinvestment, most funds applied to pay debt service on already authorized projects.
  • Sponsored and Partner Agencies:  An additional $448,000 in target and one-time funding is recommended—including a 2% cost of living adjustment for most agencies, the 2% increase already approved for TC3, and some one-time capacity-building support.  A $150,000 increase in target funding is recommended for the Tompkins County Public Library.
  • Sales Tax:  Considering past trends, sales tax collections are projected at 5% above receipts for 2013, and $400,000 (1.3%) above the amount budgeted for 2015.
  • Airport :  The budget continues the waiver of administrative fees for services provided to the airport by County staff, the second year of a proposed three-year plan, saving $126,000 in payments by the airport.
  • Solid Waste:  In light of ongoing decreased prices paid for recycling commodities, the budget recommends returning the annual Solid Waste Fee to $56 ($4 increase).

“I wish to thank County Department Heads and Agency Directors, and their staffs, for their professional approach to the challenges that mark every budget,” Mareane states.  “All exercised the restraint we requested, and continue to find ways to maintain service levels, provided with high quality, to the community.”  He also recognizes the Legislature for its ongoing actions to establish clear policy guidance and instill a culture of fiscal discipline and responsiveness to community needs that has shaped this budget and many before it.

Legislators will review the recommended budget in detail at the first meeting of the County’s Expanded Budget Committee (any legislator may participate) on Tuesday, September 8, 5:30 p.m. in Legislature Chambers, Governor Daniel D. Tompkins Building, 121 E. Court Street (Second Floor), Ithaca—the first in a series of meetings that will continue through September and October.  During the Expanded Budget Review process, the County will hold its annual public information meeting on the budget October 7.

The 2016 Recommended Budget is posted on the County Budget page.

Public copies of the Recommended Budget are available for review at the County Administration office, 125 East Court Street (3rd Floor), and at the Office of the County Legislature, 121 East Court Street.