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Legislators Recommend 2019 Amended Budget

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Legislators Recommend 2019 Amended Budget

Monday, October 15, 2018

Legislators acting as an Expanded Budget Committee tonight recommended that the Legislature amend County Administrator Jason Molino’s 2019 Recommended Budget and the Capital Program for the next five years.  The recommendation came by unanimous vote.  The Tentative Budget includes an amendment, advanced tonight by Legislator Dan Klein, which increases projected sales tax by $150,000 to reduce the tax levy.

The amended budget, to be presented to the Legislature tomorrow, would increase the County tax levy by 1.54%, compared to the initial 1.43% in the Administrator’s budget.  The recommended tax rate of $6.40 per thousand is 18 cents less than 2018, and is essentially the same as in the Administrator’s budget.  The amended budget would repressent an increase of $13.90 in the tax bill for the median-valued $185,000 home.  A $3 increase in the County’s annual Solid Waste Fee, to $58, is also recommended.  The amended budget,as proposed, increases use of reserves by $584,896. 

More on the amendments approved tonight:

Legislator Klein’s amendment to increase the sales tax projection by $150,000 was approved by a 10-4 vote.  Mr. Klein said, “Our sales taxes are booming, our casino revenues are above budget, and the County’s fund balance stands at $37 million…Our budget is in great shape because of the conservative decisions we’ve made over the years…This is giving a little bit back.”  County Administrator Jason Molino advised that the change in projection would be at a margin of risk, but that, all in all, he believes it safe.  Some legislators expressed a bit of concern, especially with significant areas of potential expense and uncertainty about what’s happening at the State and Federal level.  Budget chair Michael Lane said he’s a believer in a strong fund balance and didn’t want to see the figure adjusted.   Legislator Martha Robertson said she didn’t feel the pressure to lower the levy, as had been the case in some previous years.

Legislators resumed discussion on the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce “Live in Ithaca” Project aimed at area workforce recruitment and, after listening to a presentation by Chamber president Jennifer Tavares, approved $10,000 in one-time funding, by a 10-4 vote, which would make what has to date been a privately funded initiative a public-private partnership.

Two amendments related to Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County were approved:

- Multi-year funding to support an Operations Effectiveness Manager position was restored to the budget:  $30,000 for 2019 and 2020, and $15,000 for 2021, re-setting a three-year cycle for a position that was first approved for 2018, but remains unfilled due to hiring difficulties.  After considerable discussion, the amendment was approved by a 12-2 vote.  The $30,000 allocation would be matched by another $30,000 from other CCE resources, and County Administrator Molino indicated that County funding would not be released until the position is filled.

- By a vote of 8-6, Legislators approved $62,000 in one-time funding for new proposal to fund a space expansion project for Cooperative Extension, using shipping containers, to increase storage and classroom space.  Though many acknowledged the organization’s need for more space—as well as previous legal problems related to a contractor which have delayed the initiative—many questioned the last-minute nature of the proposal, without much detail at this point.  A proposal to place the money in Contingency until a firm plan could be evaluated, failed by a tie vote of 7-7.

- Another new Cooperative Extension-related proposal, which would have allocated $15,000 in one-time funding to support redesign of CCE’s Strategic Plan, failed by a vote of 6-8.

Resuming consideration of what had initially been advanced as a $23,000 request for one-time funding for Town and Village parks, Legislators by a 13-1 margin approved a revised proposal from Legislator Mike Sigler for $50,000 in one-time funding for a Park Fund to be administered by the Department of Planning and Sustainability.  Each Town and Village in Tompkins County could apply for a grant of up to $5,000 from the fund for infrastructure planning/improvements to its publicly managed or supported parks.

At its October 16 meeting, the Legislature will consider the recommended amended budget.  Once the Legislature formally adopts recommended amendments, the amended package becomes the Tentative Budget and the basis of deliberations, including the Legislature’s public hearing on the budget October 30. 

The 2019 Recommended Budget, along with amendments to date and other budget-related information, is posted at the budget page of the County web site at