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Highlights of the September 12, 13, and 14, 2022 Expanded Budget Committee meetings of the Tompkins County Legislature

Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit (TCAT)

Scot Vanderpool, General Manager for TCAT and Julie Ellis-Grove, Comptroller, presented the recommended 2023 agency budget. Vanderpool relayed information on the adaptation that TCAT and other transit agencies have had to go through over the past several years, including to staffing shortage, ridership reductions, and other pandemic-related impacts. Vanderpool detailed initiatives meant to bolster the agency, including grants for battery-electric buses and a transit development plan developing a new route structure.

Ellis-Grove detailed an 8% increased ask for 2023. Further detailing operating revenues and projections for 2023, Ellis-Grove spoke to the increased ask under the underwriter share category, which would equate to a $75,000 increase per underwriter (Tompkins County, the City of Ithaca, and Cornell University). TCAT’s projected 2023 expenditures show increased employee wages and benefits, as well as new positions to support the organization’s recovery strategies. TCAT estimates 1.5 million miles travelled by buses in 2023, which factored into fuel cost calculations, estimated to increase slightly for 2023.

Legislator Mike Lane (D-Dryden) asked about recent changes for TCAT, “I’m hearing about service reductions… especially with late night service up to Ithaca College, I wonder what’s being thought about on restoring that service.” Vanderpool replied that he’s working with the service development manager and reiterated that the reductions are temporary related to the situation with driver shortages. Legislator Veronica Pillar (D-Ithaca) asked about the fare box project using only federal funds, Ellis-Grove replied that it is a priority project because the current system is failing and that available ARPA funds can be used for that purpose, which do not require other matching funds.

Legislator Anne Koreman (D-Ulysses) asked about the Fare Free Tompkins campaign, “would going ahead with fare box upgrades negatively affect you studying going fare free?” Vanderpool responded that in his opinion, no it would not, as those boxes would be received on a short-term contract basis while TCAT studies the fare free concept. Legislator Deborah Dawson (D-Lansing) spoke about how if fare free would go into effect it would then increase ridership and therefore federal aid available to the organization. Vanderpool added that increased ridership would be difficult to manage with the current driver shortage.

Tompkins County Administrator Lisa Holmes has recommended a 3% increase for the County’s underwriter share for 2023, with the additional 5% ask by TCAT included as an over target request.

Transportation Planning

Dwight Mengel, Chief Transportation Planner for the Department of Social Services presented the 2023 recommended Transportation Planning budget. The budget recommends $129,779, increased by $28,949 from 2022. Mengel shared that he is retiring in 2023 and that other individuals will need to be trained on the work that he does, and that there is an opportunity for re-organizing the work. Mengel also shared that there are new requirements applicable to Tompkins County as a recipient of Federal Transportation Administration funds, these require an increased amount of written documentation and policies under the County.

Legislator Deborah Dawson (D-Lansing) thanked Mengel and congratulated him on his impending retirement.

Planning and Sustainability Department

Tompkins County Commissioner of Planning and Sustainability, Katie Borgella presented her department’s recommended $1.2 million budget.

Major budget influences were reported as 90% of the base budget being salary and fringe costs, and grants and over target requests for studies and programs.

Borgella shared the department’s over target requests including that support for the Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) position would move to target funding. Regarding moving the position to target funding, Borgella stated, “We are hoping to make this target just to give some consistency and a long-term commitment.” Borgella lauded CSO Terry Carroll’s achievements since he started in 2021, including policies related to the County’s electrified vehicle fleet, and work on programs under the Green Facilities Capital Program.

An additional over target request for broadband planning was presented, this would support future grant application activities related to expanding broadband access in Tompkins County.

Tourism Program

The Tourism Program budget is supported by hotel occupancy tax, which is forecasted to be $3.3 million for 2023 which is expended on marketing and “product development” costs. The marketing costs support destination marketing activities and visitor centers through Visit Ithaca. Product development includes local grants, Community Arts Partnership, beautification, and support for the development of the downtown Ithaca conference center.

Cornell Cooperative Extension

Interim Cornell Cooperative Extension Executive Director Meg Cole presented the recommended 2023 agency budget. Cole detailed the $9 million overall budget, 10% of which comes from the County’s appropriation and 8% from other County contracts. The recommended County budget is $929,000 with $185,000 in over target requests.

Legislator Amanda Champion (D-Ithaca) asked for clarification on where the County funds go in the organization’s budget, to which Cole replied that “there is quite a bit of staffing and administration, as well as program funding.”

Over target requests include one for administrative capacity building to help meet requirements and improve systems. Another over target request is to help purchase a 12-passenger van to provide access for youth to participate in 4-H youth programming. An additional request is for the second year of the Student Resource Navigator program, “a great, effective program we’re looking to continue” according to Cole. Legislator Champion also asked for clarification on the capacity building OTR, and whether it would ask for a new position, Cole clarified that yes, it is for a new position and it would be a multi-year request while the organization seeks other funding.

Cole introduced herself as she has been in the role for two months, sharing that she has a background in extension work and founded the Ithaca Children's Garden before working at various roles at Cornell University. Cole also shared that Cooperative Extension recently completed a strategic planning process, informing some of the programming included in the 2023 budget.

Soil and Water Conservation District

Jon Negley shared the District’s 2023 recommended agency budget supported by Tompkins County. The District has offices in the second floor of the Highway Department building and has a small staff of 7 individuals. The work of the District includes technical assistance in the form of water quality and land use planning, watershed management planning, and the Tompkins County Stormwater Coalition. The District also manages project implementation including streambank stabilization, wetland construction, road ditch stabilization, invasive species management, and cover crop installation in partnership with local farms.

The 2023 recommended agency budget is $346,165, up $10,082 from 2022.

Legislators Deborah Dawson (D-Lansing) and Mike Lane (D-Dryden) both expressed gratitude for Negley’s leadership and the District’s efforts over the past several years.

Tompkins County Finance Department

Tompkins County Finance Director Rick Snyder presented his department’s 2023 recommended budget. Highlights included that all department vacancies are filled as of June, 2022 though Snyder is retiring this November. New initiatives include staff cross-training and development and possibilities of new software impacting the department’s operations. Snyder reported that the department tracks nearly 200,000 transactions each year. The 2023 recommended budget is $1.6 million, up $411,422 from 2022. There are 16 full-time equivalent employees recommended in the 2023 budget, up 3 from 2022.

Human Resources Department

Tompkins County Human Resources Commissioner Ruby Pulliam presented the $1.4 million recommended 2023 budget, up $28,129 from 2022. The department is asking for several over target requests, including in-person psychological evaluations for incoming law enforcement officers and other civil service mandates totaling $20,000. Other over target requests were $40,000 for culturally responsive training programming under Reimagining Public Safety and $10,000 for culturally responsive recruitment for law enforcement officers also under the Reimagining initiative.

Tompkins County Assessment Department

Department Director Jay Franklin and Assistant Director Irene Kehoe presented the department’s 2023 recommended budget totaling $1.3 million. The budget is not recommended to increase from 2022, the department has 13.3 full-time equivalent employees.

Franklin detailed external influences on their budget including the growth in the local real estate market and the community simply not having enough properties to meet the demand, new factors such as outdoor leisure and viewsheds making properties more valuable, and uncertainty around financing rates and the cost of property ownership.

Tompkins County Clerk and Department of Motor Vehicles

County Clerk Maureen Reynolds also spoke about the active local real estate market and its impacts on the record activities at the Clerk’s office. Reynolds spoke to the increased use of online filings, up to 90% for court cases and over 55% for land records. Transfer tax revenue for the County has increased, on track to be nearly $1.3 million in 2022, matching what it was in 2021, the increase is due to the increased prices being paid for homes. Mortgage tax collected is also up, having nearly doubled in the past three years. The office’s budget totals $620,720 of local dollars, with the rest of the department’s activities supported by revenues.

Regarding the Department of Motor Vehicles, post-COVID observations cited including the limited supply and increased costs of vehicles. Reynolds thanked local dealers and organizations with vehicle fleets for keeping their activities local with the Tompkins County DMV.

Tompkins County Legislature

Clerk of the Tompkins County Legislature Cathy Covert shared the recommended $946,492 budget, up $78,811 from 2022. Over target requests recommended include making a new deputy clerk position target funded. The staff that makes up the Legislature includes 14 elected Legislators and 4 staff members. Covert thanked her staff for their support, dedication, and professionalism. Legislator Deborah Dawson (D-Lansing) thanked staff for their efforts to ensure smooth running of the Expanded Budget Committee Meetings.

Tompkins County Information Technology Services Department

Department Director Greg Potter and Deputy Director Lore Cottrell presented their $2.3 million budget, up $218,764 from 2022.

Major budget impacts include professional services and governance related to cyber security, Cottrell stated that the department is looking to “enhance our cyber security footprint going forward, including work with the State and its Joint Security Operations Center, engaging vendors, and bringing up internal staff to help with cyber security management.” Other impacts include the need for a microcomputer specialist, alignment of the HR/Payroll program, and a position related to the shared services of the GIS program and its migration to cloud storage.

The main influence in the budget will be centralized computer procurement for County departments. Centralizing the procurement will make replacement of equipment more equitable for departments and ensure better processes for internal work orders to service machines.

Finger Lakes Library System / Rural Libraries

Diane Pamel, Director of the Southworth Library in Dryden began the presentation giving an overview of the rural libraries that make up the Finger Lakes Library System (Groton, Ulysses, Lansing, Southworth, and Newfield). Pamel explained how the libraries meet the needs of the community, providing things like COVID prevention tools like masks and test kits, vital internet connections and remote access to telehealth and other appointments, and programming relevant to various different audiences and that meet community needs. The rural libraries cited statistics including 7,000+ borrowers, 55,500+ visitors to the libraries, nearly 900 programs offered, and nearly 1,800 participants in summer reading programs.

Rural libraries are funded through the County and other local town and local governments, fundraising, and other specific program grants. The County’s recommended budget for rural libraries is $215,711, up slightly from 2022.

Legislator Mike Lane (D-Dryden) thanked libraries for their efforts and shared that Tompkins County is lucky to be the home to the Finger Lakes Library System’s headquarters – they serve 33 libraries in the region. Lane stated, “They help us be a better community, particularly with the issues of diversity and inclusion. It takes a lot of work from library staff to put on these programs… They talk about issues with the diversity of people – those things are teaching our young people the value of every one of us and the value of working together. I want to say thank you to all of our libraries.”


Tompkins Community Action

Danielle Harrington, Executive Director of Tompkins Community Action detailed their programs and $336,678 recommended budget supported by Tompkins County. Programming includes housing, early childhood education, community services such as an emergency food pantry and the annual victory garden project. Harrington explained that the impact of the County funds is under required local match for federal funds and additional support for the emergency food pantry. County funds are 3.4% of the agency’s total annual budget. A $71,000 over target request is recommended for the agency’s Dryden Childcare site to support ongoing updates to improve health and safety activities at the site’s outdoor spaces and water runoff drainage.

Legislature Chairwoman Shawna Black (D-Ithaca) asked how the agency is able to seek support for childcare activities and how other organizations providing the services are unable to come directly through the budget process. County Administrator Lisa Holmes responded that Tompkins Community Action is a sponsored agency under the County, thus allowing them to make an over target request, Harrington added that the agency does not charge fees to the families who take advantage of their programming, and that their programming supports low-income households.

Tompkins County Attorney

Tompkins County Attorney Bill Troy presented the department’s $564,000 budget, up $102,896 from 2022. There are two attorneys and two paralegals on staff.

Tompkins County Weights and Measures Department

Department Director Aaron Becker presented the $106,476 recommended budget for the Weights and Measures department. Becker is the department’s only employee.

General updates included that in 2021 a total of 224 inspections were performed at 172 businesses, with 95.7% of devices meeting design specifications and performing correctly. Becker detailed his inspection process and the necessary elements to ensure compliance and effective inspections.

Legislators discussed the fact that the department only has one employee and that there may be a need for expanded staffing to meet the department’s requirements.

Tompkins County Board of Elections

Tamara Scott, one of the Tompkins County Election Commissioners presented the departments recommended $1 million budget.

Scott also spoke about election workers, sharing that 175 bi-partisan poll workers serve during each election, with their pay rate recently being increased to a living wage.

District Attorney’s Office

District Attorney Matt Van Houten presented the $2 million budget, which encompasses 16 full time equivalent employees.

The 2023 recommended budget includes a data analyst position who would compile, organize, and publish data related to arrests, prosecutions, bail information, and other efforts toward the Office’s transparency. Van Houten spoke about the efforts of transparency related to Reimagining Public Safety initiatives.

Legislature Chairwoman Shawna Black inquired about Van Houten’s engagement with the Reimagining Public Safety Process and whether he has been satisfied with that engagement. Van Houten responded that he has been invited to participate at the City Council’s special committee on the topic, improving that relationship, and that he has been satisfied with his engagement on the ongoing County-specific plan to disclose data from his office and the Office of Assigned Counsel.

Assigned Counsel

Tompkins County Director of Assigned Counsel Lance Salisbury detailed his department’s $2.07 million recommended budget.

Main influences on the budget were cited as ongoing impacts of the pandemic on the legal system and courts coming back from being shut down, New York State’s failure to finalize an increase in pay rates for Assigned Counsel attorneys, and the ongoing processes under Reimagining Public Safety and other criminal justice reform efforts. Salisbury also detailed the annual caseloads from 2018-2022, which have been consistently between 125-175 cases per month.

Probation And Community Justice Department

Department Director Dan Cornell and other department staff presented their $2.9 million recommended budget, up $182,149 from 2022. The department has 32 full-time equivalent employees. The budget increase is due to negotiated salary increases for 2023.

Legislator Mike Lane (D-Dryden) inquired about the number of staff and what the caseload for probation officers looks like. Cornell responded that the department’s caseload numbers are relatively stable at around 30 cases per probation officers, aligning with industry best practices.

Ithaca Area Economic Development

Heather McDaniel, President of Ithaca Area Economic Development presented the agency’s 2023 recommended budget of $271,052, part of a 5-year memorandum of understanding between the County and the Agency to provide economic development services County-wide.

McDaniel spoke on the agency’s strategic planning on behalf of the County, with several recent strategies including an updated Countywide Inter-Municipal Water and Sewer Feasibility Study in support of local municipalities. McDaniel also detailed initiatives of the agency, including partnerships in the areas of business retention, manufacturing employment training, and a broadband project in Lansing. Economic development services provided by IAED to local businesses include the Industrial Development Agency, a revolving loan fund, and resources and referrals.

Office of Employment & Training

Interim Director of the Office, Melissa Caci presented the Office’s budget,the $1.3M budget is supported by $190,290 of County funding and  other funding comes from New York State grant funds supporting workforce programs in counties.

Programs under the department include adult and youth jobseeker programs.

Workforce Development Board

Director of the Workforce Development Board, Rosemary Avila presented her department’s budget totaling $713,750 39% of this budget($280,379) is supported by County funding and described the composition of the Workforce Development Board.

The Board is made up of 24 members, with 51% of members representing private businesses. The Board administers federal, state, and local funds for workforce services in the county and manages the fiscal requirements and reporting of those programs.

Legislator Mike Lane (D-Dryden) inquired about what issues the Board is addressing with labor shortages, to which Avila replied that there are developing initiatives supporting entry-level workers with job coaches or other supports outside of their workplaces.

Tompkins County Historian and Historical Commission

Tompkins County Historian Carol Kammen presented her 2023 recommended budget for both the Historian and the Historical Commission. The budget includes $10,000 for the historian’s stipend and $5,000 for projects of the Commission. 

Kammen detailed the work of the historian, which is a position in the County Charter and the Commission which has been hard at work publishing pamphlets including ones that highlight the role of the marginalized and under-recognized community residents. Commission member and former County Administrator Joe Mareane spoke about the publications and their highlighting of key activities and facts from the County’s history. Mareane also spoke about the historical statues project that will take an anonymous donation and create statues of Lucy Brown (who founded Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services) and Frances Perkins (first U.S. Cabinet Secretary and later a professor at the Industrial Labor Relations School at Cornell University) to be installed at Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services properties.

For more information on the recommended 2023 Tompkins County Budget, visit: