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County Begins 2018 Budget Review

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County Begins 2018 Budget Review

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Legislators acting as an Expanded Budget Committee tonight began review of County Administrator Joe Mareane’s recommended 2018 County Budget, hearing their first five department and agency presentations, and beginning a review process that will run through most of October.

The Recommended Budget supports total expenditures of $179 million (an increase of 1.6%) and local dollar spending of $86.6 million (an increase of 1.0%), meets the Legislature’s 2018 budget goal of a 2.4% increase in the County property tax levy, and is well below the County’s projected 3.53% tax cap. The property tax rate will go down again in 2018, to $6.58 per $1,000—a reduction of 0.7%. Under the Recommended Budget, the County property tax bill for the owner of a median-valued $178,000 home would increase by $12. 

As part of this budget, new recurring revenue from the area’s two new casinos funds most of a $1.36 million Contingent Fund allocation, and Administrator Mareane has left it to the Legislature to decide how those funds should best be allocated—including whether to reallocate the funds to support over-target requests (OTRs) submitted by departments and agencies.

Tonight Legislators heard presentations from the Board of Elections, County Attorney, Office for the Aging, District Attorney, and the Human Services Coalition (including its supported community agencies.)

Among the highlights from tonight’s presentations:

District Attorney Matt Van Houten has requested more than $195,000 in new target funding as part of his budget for two additional Assistant D.A.s—new attorneys who would focus on duties in the local justice courts. If granted, that would increase the prosecutorial staff to ten. Van Houten said the County currently has significantly fewer prosecutors per capita than do comparably sized New York counties and neighboring counties, and as compared to the generally accepted standard. He said the additional staff, in part, would help his office manage a very heavy workload including many serious cases, provide needed support for alternatives-to-incarceration efforts, and improve due process for those facing criminal charges.

The County Administrator has not included the D.A.’s request in his budget but deferred the policy decision to the Legislature, suggesting the Legislature may want to consider one additional prosecutor (at half the expense), rather than two.

The Human Services Coalition has requested $20,000 in target funding to increase its Continuum of Care Coordinator to full-time, a position that oversees planning and initiatives related to the issues of housing and homelessness. While not included in the Recommended Budget, the administrator suggests a positive decision by the Legislature.

For Coalition-supported agencies, the administrator’s budget recommends more than $18,000 in one-time funding to restore weekend hours at the Ithaca Rescue Mission’s Friendship Center; $50,000 for the second year of funding for the Continuum of Care Transitional Housing Plan, and more than $16,000 to support seven additional daycare slots for DSS families at the Downtown Ithaca Children’s Center. Not included in the administrator’s budget are over-target requests to restore Community Dispute Resolution Center funding to its 2016 level, and additional funding for the Ithaca Health Alliance and Women’s Opportunity Center.

The Office for the Aging has requested $20,000 in ongoing funding to support a 5% increase in hourly rates for home care contractors, an expense not recommended by the County Administrator. Noting that her office typically attempts to raise such rates by 3% each year, Director Lisa Holmes cautioned that raising rates without additional funds, as has been done over the past several years, decreases the number of available home care service hours.

Legislators will hear six more presentations when the committee reconvenes Monday, September 11. All Expanded Budget sessions begin at 5:30 p.m., and are held at Legislature Chambers in the Governor Daniel D. Tompkins Building, 121 E. Court Street (Second Floor).

The 2018 Recommended Budget, with schedules and other budget-related information, is posted on the budget page of the County web site at