Tompkins County to Negotiate a Memorandum of Understanding with Local Municipalities for a Pilot Rapid Medical Response System
Tompkins County will begin negotiations with local municipalities to share the costs of a new pilot rapid medical response system. A resolution authorizing the County’s negotiation passed following the approval of amendments with a unanimous vote of 14-0.
Legislator Rich John (D-Ithaca) offered several amendments to an initial resolution regarding cost sharing with local municipalities, including that the pilot program continuing in 2025 (its potential second year) should be contingent upon successful cost-sharing negotiations. John’s amendments passed unanimously after a further amendment from Legislator Anne Koreman (D-Ulysses) proposing the removal of a reference to the residents who will receive the benefit sharing a specific portion of cost, replacing that language with a simplified statement around fairly distributing costs.
In support of the program John remarked, “We believe it is time to do something. We put money into our budget to start the (pilot) response to work in collaboration with existing agencies… giving us the opportunity to drastically improve these response times.”
Legislator Veronica Pillar (D-Ithaca) argued that the original language in John’s amendment regarding “fairly allocating a portion of the cost to those residents who will receive the benefit” was not in the spirit of how government should offer and pay for services – rather, the cost to cover services should be shared across the entire local population. Pillar also advocated for local municipalities having the opportunity to negotiate which cost-sharing model would be preferable. Legislator Deborah Dawson (D-Lansing) refuted that “Government services aren’t free, someone has to pay for them… we’re looking for some sort of fair allocation of those costs, we’re not dictating what that will look like.” Dawson shared her view that the purpose of the amendment to the resolution is to authorize the County Administrator to begin negotiations. Dawson further added that having a year of data from the program will help to strengthen the negotiation.
For details on the pilot program, please refer to highlights from October 3, 2023. In support of the Legislature’s consideration of the resolution, staff from the Tompkins County Department of Emergency Response (EMS Coordinator Joe Milliman and Director of the Department of Emergency Response Mike Stitley) gave an updated presentation on the Rapid Emergency Medical Services Response program.
Several cost-sharing models were presented, offering different options for the County and local municipalities covering the costs. Those models will be considered during negotiations with local municipalities.
Fund Balance Policy Passes
An amended Tompkins County Fund Balance Policy passed the Legislature with a vote of 9-5 (Legislators Mike Sigler (R-Lansing), Veronica Pillar (D-Ithaca), Greg Mezey (D-Dryden), Randy Brown (R-Newfield), and Dan Klein (D-Danby) opposed).The County’s new fund balance policy will require 25% of the actual expense from the prior year to be held in fund balance which would currently total $45.3 million. The former policy required 18% of the prior year’s revenues, which totaled $37.4 million.
Legislator Greg Mezey (D-Dryden) argued against the updated policy, stating that the County shouldn’t be “parking cash when we have a better use for it today”, further stating that the County does have the ability to weather financial hardships with its current financial position. Legislator Rich John (D-Ithaca) said that the 25% included in the policy is consistent with the recommendations of the rating agency that allows the County to achieve favorable interest rates when it issues bonds.
Legislator Deborah Dawson (D-Lansing) shared her support for the policy adjustment due to the County’s expenditures having increased over the past several years, arguing that the fund balance should increase accordingly. Dawson added her position that, “having a reserve policy protects the county going forward from irrational exuberance” of future Legislatures.
Legislator Randy Brown (R-Newfield) commented that he agreed with the policy changing to be based on expenses rather than revenues, adding that the County still has a sizable amount of fund balance above the $45.3 million. Brown inquired about how the County would access these funds in case it was needed, it was clarified that there are steps to refund the balance if those funds are used.
Among Other Business
A proclamation was read acknowledging Frank Proto, a former Legislator and one of the founding board members of Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit (TCAT) for his lifetime of public service. Proto accepted the proclamation and shared reflections from his time as a public servant and his efforts to support the collaborative community bus service.
Chairwoman Shawna Black (D-Ithaca) shared an end-of-the-year note of gratitude to the Legislature, County staff, and members of the public,
“…This was another year full of many accomplishments across the entire organization. Thank you to my colleagues who have trusted me to be your leader over the past two years. This has been the ultimate honor of my life and truly an experience I will never forget.
I also want to acknowledge the hundreds of community members who provided public comments to the Legislature and County staff this year. Community members have provided valuable insights both here in chambers and in other forums like our strategic planning process. We also have many community members that volunteer their time to be part of our advisory boards. Their feedback is invaluable and an essential part of our decision making. I believe our County is better off when we hear from members of the public and weigh different opinions and lived experiences.
I’m looking forward to 2024, with new energy and opportunities for Tompkins County and I hope it will be a year where we don’t shy away from challenges, no matter how big they are. I hope that we continue as innovative and forward-thinking problem solvers.”
A presentation was delivered by Hailley Delisle, a Sustainability Planner in the Department of Planning and Sustainability, on the topic of the New York State Electric and Gas (NYSEG) rate case and lessons learned by Tompkins County as a party to the case. Delisle detailed the rate case process and the rate case decision, which includes a 62% increase in electric delivery rates and a 17.8% increase in gas delivery rates – equating to a $30 per month increase for electric customers after three years. Several considerations can be made leading up to the next rate case if Tompkins County chooses to become a party to the case, including the Legislature setting a clear direction for Planning staff, or the hiring of third-party representation to advocate on behalf of the County. Legislator Greg Mezey (D-Dryden) shared that from his calculations, between 26-31 hours would need to be worked by a resident (who purchases both electric and gas) making a living wage to cover the increased costs in year three of the new rates.
A resolution passed unanimously for the County to extend the Tompkins Chamber’s operation of the Ithaca/Tompkins County Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) for another five-year period. The memorandum of understanding between the parties was recently amended to bring it into compliance with current County policies.
Unanimously, the Legislature accepted a collective bargaining agreement with the Civil Service Employees’ Association (CSEA), Blue Collar Unit 8900-01 that will be in effect through 2026.
A resolution passed unanimously (14-0) to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the City of Ithaca to expand the C.A.R.E. (Crisis Alternative Response and Engagement) Team to a partnership with the Ithaca Police Department. The C.A.R.E. Team is a co-response model utilizing a law enforcement officer and mental health professional to respond to crisis calls for service.