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Legislators Conduct Third Night of County Budget Review

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Legislators Conduct Third Night of County Budget Review

Monday, September 22, 2014

Legislators acting as an Expanded Budget Committee heard from eight more County departments and agencies, in their third night of review of County Administrator Joe Mareane’s recommended 2015 County budget.

Presenting tonight were the departments of Finance, Probation and Community Justice, Emergency Response, and Planning; the County Historian; Animal Control-SPCA; and Tompkins County Area Development (TCAD).  Again tonight, several presenters had no over-target requests, and most such requests were recommended by the Administrator as part of his recommended budget.

Highlights from tonight’s presentations:

Planning Commissioner Ed Marx noted that his budget amounts to essentially maintenance of effort, with a slight restoration of cuts made in 2014, but still quite a bit below its traditional past level.  Three of four OTRs submitted were recommended by the County Administrator—$11, 712 to maintain department staffing levels; $20,000 in one-time energy program matching funds; and $25,000 (recommended as one-time funding) to continue the 20-year-old Stream Corridor Restoration program, which in recent years has been supported through multi-year funding.  A $25,000 over-target request for one-time money to update the 2006 Housing Needs Assessment was not included in the Administrator’s budget.  The initial study identified the need for approximately 4,000 additional housing units, and Commissioner Marx said he sees it as important to update the assessment, incorporate current numbers, and prepare it in a way that it can be easily updated, monitored, and kept current.  Administrator Mareane said that he felt it appropriate that the Legislature address the matter as a policy issue, and to decide whether such funding is warranted..

Director of Emergency Response Lee Shurtleff also described his budget as maintenance-of-effort; his single over-target request was included in the budget—more than $48,000 in one-time funding to continue the interim Assistant Director of the communications center for one year, at half time, to assist in transitional activities and assist in administration of $3 million in grant funds and projects.

Director of Probation and Community Justice Pat Buechel, whose department had two recommended OTRs—$12,000 for local mileage and $6,000 for mandated training (funded through roll-over)—said her department’s goals include collaborating with the Sheriff’s Office on two programs to facilitate inmate re-entry.  She noted that incorporating a weekend Service Work Alternative Program as an alternative to weekend jail sentence was one outcome of the review of Alternatives-to-Incarceration programs accomplished through the Jail Alternatives Task Force.

For The History Center, the Administrator did not include in the budget a little more than $10,000 to increase the Director of Archives and Research Services to full-time, though about $4,300 is recommended to cover increased occupancy costs not already supported by the County.

TCAD President Michael Stamm praised the County for its leadership role bolstering financial support for the County’s economic development arm—a system of support through County funds and Room Tax dollars that will enter its second year in 2015.  Stamm said the County’s leadership was “a powerful statement” that formed the foundation for a very successful investment campaign, and he thanked the County for its commitment.

The Expanded Budget Committee has recessed until Thursday, September 25.  All Expanded Budget sessions begin at 5:30 p.m., and are held at Legislature Chambers in the Governor Daniel D. Tompkins Building, 121 E. Court Street (Second Floor).

The Recommended Budget, with total expenditures of $180 million and local dollar spending of $83.3 million, would increase the tax levy by 2.34% (below the County’s projected property tax cap) and would increase the tax bill by $6.34 for the owner of a median-value $165,000 home—an amount of increase that would be returned by the State under the new State property tax freeze law.

The 2015 Recommended Budget, along with other budget-related information, is posted on the County Budget page.