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Legislature Adopts 2016 Financial Goal

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Legislature Adopts 2016 Financial Goal

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

As the first step in the process of developing the 2016 Tompkins County budget, the Legislature has approved a 2016 financial goal that directs the County Administrator Joe Mareane to prepare a recommended operating and capital budget that can be supported with a tax levy increase of 1.3%.  The 1.3% levy increase, which equals approximately $600,000 over the 2015 property tax levy, would meet the currently estimated State-imposed property tax cap for Tompkins County, 1.3%.

The tax levy guideline, requested by Administrator Mareane as a basis for working with departments and preparing his 2016 recommended budget, is characterized as the basis for a “maintenance of effort” budget for County departments, while addressing other critical needs and priorities.  Budget committee chair Jim Dennis noted that this approach, as advanced by the Administrator, will enable county government to “get stronger, not bigger” within the capacity of the tax cap.  Departments and agencies will still have the opportunity to submit over target requests for funding in excess of their 2016 spending targets.  It is estimated that, based on current data, the 1.3% levy increase would increase the cost for a median-valued $165,000 county home by approximately $15.00.  Mr. Dennis said a decrease in the cost of some of the County’s mandated programs, a decline in mandated State pension costs, solid sales tax collections, and results from decisions made in past years have all contributed to the budget outlook for 2016,

Although the 1.3% levy goal was approved by unanimous vote (Legislator Carol Chock was excused), both Legislators Dooley Kiefer and Will Burbank first had voted no, then decided to change their votes.  Legislator Burbank said he has been a bit uneasy about the guideline since he does not support the County’s restraining its budget considerations via the tax cap.  Legislator Kiefer also expressed reservations, but both ultimately voted in support in deference to Administrator Mareane’s recommendation.