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Tompkins County Legislators Hear Preliminary Budget Information, Consider 2025 Tentative Tax Levy Target

Tompkins County Administrator Lisa Holmes provided the Legislature with an overview of factors to consider leading into the 2025 budget process. The presentation culminated in a discussion on a tentative “fiscal target,” or the Legislature’s stated goal for a tax levy change, initially set at a 2% tax levy increase for the development of the 2025 budget proposal from the administrator.

Holmes detailed several factors driving local costs that must be considered within the development of the 2025 budget. Several State mandate costs, primarily related to the departments of Social Services and Whole Health, are slated to increase. Employee wages are estimated to increase by $2.3 million (to $47.5 million) from 2024, incorporating all negotiated salary increases and adjustments from a recent compensation study. Other factors discussed included an increase in the County’s Capital Program contribution of $1.378 million and an estimated employee vacancy rate of 5%, or $1.878 million in cost savings.

In her overview of the County’s expected revenues, Holmes presented sales tax numbers for the first quarter of 2024 which are lower than what was initially budgeted for the quarter. In regard to the tentative 2025 budget, Holmes suggested that a conservative approach of using 2023 actual numbers would be an appropriate placeholder.

Holmes concluded that this is another challenging year for the County’s budget, with significant increased costs and revenues slowing or plateauing. A 2025 budget that maintains the current efforts across the County would include an estimated $3.152 million (or 5.9%) tax levy increase, equivalent to a $155 increase on the County tax bill for the owner of a median priced home of $300,000.

The Legislature discussed the information presented and how best to achieve a tentative fiscal target that they are comfortable with, tentatively recommending a 2% target through a straw poll. Legislators asked Administrator Holmes to give departments instruction to consider cuts to their budget to help achieve a lower tax levy increase than the maintenance of effort would require.