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County Legislators Begin 2011 Budget Review

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County Legislators Begin 2011 Budget Review

Monday, September 13, 2010
In their initial review session of County Administrator Joe Mareane's recommended 2011 County Budget, Legislators acting as an Expanded Budget Committee tonight heard their first six department budget presentations. As many as 13 review sessions will take place over the next two months.

The administrator's Tentative Budget recommends a balanced combination of revenue increases and spending decreases to close a $4.7 million budget gap. The budget recommends $74.4 million in local dollar spending, an increase of only 0.6% from 2010 despite substantial increases in mandated spending, coupled with $2 million in spending reduction. It would increase the tax levy (the total amount of tax revenue collected) by 5% (meeting the Legislature's 2011 levy goal), and the tax rate (the amount of tax paid per thousand dollars assessed property value) would increase from $6.00 to $6.41, resulting in a $66 per year increase for the average $160,000 home.

Tonight's presentations came from programs which are not asking for deviations from the administrator's proposed budget. The committee heard from Tompkins County Area Development (TCAD), the SPCA, District Attorney's Office, the County Clerk, and the County's two public works enterprise divisions: Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport and the Solid Waste Management Division.

Target spending for TCAD, the SPCA, the D.A.'s Office, and the County Clerk all were decreased by 6.9% to meet the County's 2011 budget goal. The D.A.'s Office downgraded one administrative staff position, eliminated target spending for extradition, witness fees, and for confidential investigations, and reduced telephone and mailing expense to help meet its target--'spending that could be requested through contingency if unforeseen expenses arise during 2011. The Clerk's Office eliminated a Records Officer position and consolidated the function with other staff duties to achieve the target reduction. For the SPCA, the reduction could mean 50 fewer cats served by its Cat Spay/Neuter Vaccination Program, though the agency will seek to raise the necessary funds to maintain the 1,200 cat-per-year total. Although the County's direct contribution is reduced to only a bit more than $8,700, TCAD Executive Director Michael Stamm said fund balance and fee-based income from Industrial Development Agency and Local Development Corporation will help maintain agency support.

As enterprise units, the Airport and Solid Waste were not bound by the 6.9% reduction. Airport Manager Bob Nicholas reminded Legislators that the airport has operated for two dozen years without an subsidy from County taxpayers. A 9% increase in the Airport's target budget includes changes requested by airlines for which they are willing to pay. As for programs throughout the County, a primary budget driver is increased employee fringe costs, up about 30%. Solid Waste has reduced its staff by half of one position, and the County Administrator has recommended Director Barbara Eckstrom's request to take nearly $300,000 from the division's fund balance to keep the annual Solid Waste Fee at $56.00 per household next year.

Legislators will review six more program requests when the committee reconvenes on Tuesday, September 14, beginning at 4:00 p.m. at Legislature Chambers in the County Courthouse, the first of five more presentation meetings before the committee begins to make recommendations.

An electronic version of the 2011 Tentative Budget, the detailed Expanded Budget Committee review schedule, and other information regarding the Tentative Budget are available for download and review on the budget page of the County web site at