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Increased Support for Community Outreach Program Urged at Budget Public Hearing

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Increased Support for Community Outreach Program Urged at Budget Public Hearing

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Tompkins County Legislature tonight invited comment on the County’s 2019 Tentative Budget and the Capital Program for the next five years.  The Tentative Budget is County Administrator Jason Molino’s Recommended Budget, as amended by the Legislature.  The hearing is the formal opportunity as part of the budget process to register comments with the Legislature.

Of the nine people who spoke at the half-hour-long hearing, six of them asked for increased support for the community outreach worker program, operated through Family and Children’s Service and funded jointly by the County and the City of Ithaca.  Though the issue had not come up as part of consideration of the budget, Michael Ellis, Director of Youth and Outreach Services at F&CS, told Legislators the demand to connect people in need in the downtown core area to services has more than doubled over since the program’s establishment three years ago.   He asked that the County consider increasing its $20,000 annual share to support the community outreach worker program by another $25-30,000 to expand the program and staffing to meet those critical needs.

Also among those speaking was current outreach worker Tammy Baker, who also addressed the increased need and described her work with those on the street and her collaborative work with local service providers, and said that an expanded program would benefit the community.  Off-duty Ithaca Police officer Mary Orseo noted how helpful it is to have Baker as an on-the-street outreach worker, but noted the program is now able to operate only during business hours Monday through Friday.  Tompkins County Public Library Director Annette Birdsall and Sarah O’Shea, head of youth services at TCPL, also spoke in support and read statements from other Library staff; and attorney Kevin Kelly also praised the community outreach worker program, on behalf of the Tompkins County Assigned Counsel panel.

Former long-time Legislator Frank Proto, president of the Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit Board of Directors, thanked the Legislature, on behalf of TCAT, for its work on the budget and for supporting a $73,000 increase in sponsor contribution.  He also expressed support for Veterans Services funding included in the budget, and encouraged that, as part of a $10,000 item supporting a workforce development initiative through the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce, that rural areas of the county not be forgotten as part of that marketing effort.

Twenty members of the County’s CSEA Blue Collar union attended the hearing,  Both union president Todd VanOrman and secretary Nancy Webster spoke, asking for the Legislature’s support for a fair and equitable contract.  Contract talks currently are at the mediation stage.

The Tentative Budget would increase the County tax levy 1.54%.  The recommended tax rate of $6.40 per thousand is down by 18 cents from 2018, representing an increase of $13.90 in the tax bill for the median-valued $185,000 home.  A $3 increase in the County’s annual Solid Waste Fee, to $58, is also recommended.  The amended budget’s recommended levy increase of 1.54% is below Tompkins County’s State-calculated 2019 Tax Cap of close to 5%.

The Legislature can further amend the budget before final passage.  The adoption vote is scheduled at the Legislature’s next meeting on Thursday, November 8, which begins at 5:30 p.m. at Legislature Chambers, located at the Governor Daniel D. Tompkins Building (second floor), 121 E. Court Street, Ithaca.

The Recommended Budget, all amendments to the Recommended Budget, and other information regarding the 2019 budget process, are available for review online at the County website at www.TompkinsCountyNY.gov/ctyadmin/2019budget.