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Legislators Recommend Partial Funding for Municipal Youth Services

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Legislators Recommend Partial Funding for Municipal Youth Services

Thursday, October 21, 2010
In their second night of decision-making, Legislators acting as an Expanded Budget Committee recommended partial restoration of matching funds to support Municipal Youth Development Programs, as part of the County's 2011 tentative budget. Tonight's decisions may be reconsidered at later expanded committee meetings and will require approval by the full Legislature to become final.

The County Administrator's proposed budget has recommended elimination of roughly a quarter-million dollars in matching youth development funds. Legislators, by a vote of 13-0, recommended $147,174 in support, to restore matching funds to municipalities by half and to provide $46,788 to be allocated to Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County for staff coordinators and administrative support. Youth Services Director Nancy Zahler told legislators that municipal representatives have indicated to her that, with half-level County support, communities are committed to making up the balance through increases in some municipal budgets and working with Youth Services staff and Cooperative Extension to raise more revenue from fees, grants, and fundraising to generate more support from non-governmental sources.

Before the vote, a few legislators questioned whether, with a County commitment now, municipalities would have an incentive to generate the needed contributions to fill the gap. Legislator Mike Lane, who had filed an alternate proposal (not formally considered) to set aside funding in contingency, suggested funding might be made conditional upon their participation. And Legislator Peter Stein moved to postpone until the level of municipal contribution was confirmed; that motion failed by a vote of 3-10. Legislature chair Martha Robertson asserted this is a commitment the County should make, and Legislator Dooley Kiefer said she could support putting in additional funding as one-time money, to assist with transition to a revised system.

The committee also recommended the following reductions to the tentative budget:

The committee, by a 13-1 vote, reduced from $100,000 to 50,000 one time funding to support planning and design for the recommended three-year, $2.4 million deferred maintenance capital project. A proposal to reduce the allocation to $30,000 was defeated by a 1-13 vote. The reduction in one time funding does not affect the tax levy.

By a 14-0 vote, $57,210 was removed as the contribution from the two divisions to public works administration. The funds had been targeted to partially support the positions of Public Works Administrator and Planning and Public Works Commissioner; however, public works oversight is planned to shift to the County Administrator on a trial basis for 2011.

A motion to eliminate $100,000 for paving materials for local highway projects was approved by a 9-5 vote. Legislator Leslyn McBean-Clairborne, who advanced the motion, said based on conversations she has had regarding county roads, their condition appears to be holding up well and the expense could be delayed for a couple of years without significant harm. Both Highway Manager Bill Sczesny and Commissioner Ed Marx noted that adverse effects are cumulative--'reminding legislators that, while the County initiated an $8 million highway capital project several years ago to catch up on improvements, that program was stretched out for budgetary reasons and improvements are again falling behind. Sczesny cautioned that highway materials are getting low and noted that everything in Highway operations is dependent on oil, where prices are increasing and buying power is reduced. A proposal to reduce the funding by $50,000 failed by a vote of 8-6.

Other Actions:

Legislator Mike Lane advanced a motion that the County Administrator's tentative budget, with its recommended tax levy increase of 5% and recommended reductions be recommended as the tentative budget. That failed by a 1-12 vote, with only Mr. Lane voting in favor. The action would have negated committee recommendations made to date and would have made the Administrator's budget the one presented to the Legislature and advanced to public hearing. Legislator Lane said the action would have made an affirmative statement on the County Administrator's budget.

Legislature Chair Martha Robertson reported she had asked County Administration to provide some theoretical information on the potential financial impact, should the County reduce all 40-hour and 37.5-hour employees (other than those in 24/7 operations) to a 35-hour workweek. Robertson made it clear she did not support that initiative, but thought it valuable to know that information in the context of program reductions and potential increase in the tax levy beyond the Legislature's 5% target. While indicating that initial review indicates that change could save about $1.5 million, Administrator Joe Mareane stressed he did not support that approach, saying physical services and administrative departments would bear the brunt of the reduction; and that it would significantly reduce hours at the time where demand is increasing and seriously impact the County's ability to deliver services. Several legislators indicated that any initiative toward hours reductions would be a major policy call and would require long and careful study were it to be explored.

A proposal to remove $56,683 to support a seasonal grounds maintenance worker and one cleaner in the Facilities Division failed by a 3-11 vote. A proposal to remove $15,100 for the seasonal worker alone also failed by a vote of 3-11.

Potential Tax Impact of Recommendations to Date

In its first two sessions, the committee has added $7,127 in target spending to the County Administrator's proposed budget. If the committee's recommendations so far were approved, the county's total 2011 tax levy would increase by 5.02%, and the average county tax rate would hold steady at $6.41 per thousand dollars assessed property value, an increase of 0.02%.

The committee has recessed until Tuesday, October 26.