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Highlights of the 2023 Expanded Budget Committee of the Tompkins County Legislature

The Tompkins County Legislature approved amendments to the Tompkins County Administrator’s proposed 2024 Budget totaling $4,798,657. $4,776,444 of the funding for amendments is slated to come from the County’s fund balance, pending the November 8 final approval of the 2024 Budget supported by a 2% tax levy increase (read more about the tax levy increase decision here).

The Legislature will also consider creating a new Debt Service Reserve on November 8. The Reserve would be a newly set aside $5.7 million portion of the County’s fund balance that would be drawn down as debt is repaid by the County on its capital projects. Currently the debt is paid as part of the yearly budget and supported by the tax levy – this shift would open that portion of the budget to support other initiatives or programs including the Legislature’s amendments for over target requests. 

Below is a roundup of the amendments approved by the Expanded Budget Committee of the Tompkins County Legislature. This list of amendments is in addition to several over target requests already listed in the 2024 proposed budget because they are previous multi-year initiatives approved by the Legislature.

Amendment - Rapid Emergency Medical Response

The Tompkins County Legislature amended the proposed 2024 Budget to include funding for a pilot Rapid Emergency Medical Response program. The budget amendment passed unanimously, 14-0. The program will include $54,000 in one-time funds for equipment and other startup expenses and $232,000 for one half of the first-year operating expenses. An additional $232,000 will be placed into the budget’s contingency fund awaiting a decision on sharing the program’s costs with other municipalities.

While negotiations on cost sharing is yet to be finalized, the Legislature discussed the urgency of the issue. The rapid response model would offer three response units placed in locations around the County allowing for a quick response (for example, one may be in Lansing, augmenting existing resources). The units would not use traditional ambulances or transport individuals for medical attention, but would offer rapid, on-site basic life support services to address an immediate issue or support someone while they await additional resources. The Legislature discussed the program in depth in its October 3 meeting.

Amendment - Whole Health Early Intervention Support

The Legislature unanimously (14-0) approved one time funding for three years to give additional support to Whole Health’s Early Intervention program. $206,828 will add 4.2 full time equivalent employees who will assist the program under the auspices of Whole Health, with some costs being offset by the ability to bill Medicaid and private insurance. Chairwoman Shawna Black (D-Ithaca) reiterated that this funding helps to close gaps in the system and cannot fix every issue with wait times and program funding because there are complexities outside of the County’s control. The addition of employees is based on a proposal from Whole Health Commissioner Frank Kruppa.

Legislator Mike Lane (D-Dryden) shared that having heard speakers during the recent public forum helped ensure his vote for this amendment. That sentiment was shared by other Legislators.

Amendment - Rural Outreach Worker Program Funding

$250,057 to contract for rural outreach worker programming through Family and Childrens Service, a local not-for-profit agency, was approved 12-2 (Legislators Travis Brooks (D-Ithaca) and Deborah Dawson (D-Lansing) opposed. This is a three year request. This program was funded through a New York State grant in 2023, and Tompkins County is agreeing to pick up the cost as the State grant funding is ending. The agency will hire two staff to provide outreach services to individuals in need throughout Tompkins County. Through July, 2023 the rural outreach team supported over 100 clients in over 450 encounters.

Chairwoman Shawna Black (D-Ithaca) wondered about duplication of services and asked that a deeper look be given to outreach worker programs in the County to ensure communication and consistent service. Legislator Brooks indicated that he’d like the evaluation to include the supervision of the program and the agency providing the services.

Three Workforce Related Program Amendments

IAED Direct to Work Program

$75,000 in one time funding for capacity building of Ithaca Area Economic Development’s Direct to Work Program was approved 10-4 with Legislators Amanda Champion (D-Ithaca), Dan Klein (D-Danby), Lee Shurtleff (R-Groton), and Mike Sigler (R-Lansing) opposed. The additional funds would help increase access to the program for underemployed people – the program helps people find career pathways in industries that offer skills development and upward mobility.

Chairwoman Shawna Black (D-Ithaca) inquired about how the program can be successful when the local unemployment rate is stable and low, IAED staff responded that this program targets people who may be employed now in several lower-paying jobs and helps them to find higher-paying roles requiring the skills taught in the program. Legislator Dan Klien (D-Danby) expressed his concern that the program has only supported 10 Tompkins County residents in the past year.

Restoring Workforce Development Communications Specialist to Target

A communications specialist position at the County’s Workforce Development Board was approved 12-2, (Legislators Dan Klein (D-Danby) and Lee Shurtleff (R-Groton) opposed). The unfilled position had been cut in the budget as part of a recent soft hiring freeze, the total cost for the position is $97,008.

CCE Career Pathways

$65,000 was approved for career pathways programming at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County. The program supports skills training for individuals and connections between not-for-profit partners who help people find and retain work. The amendment passed 8-6 (Legislators Shawna Black (D-Ithaca), Travis Brooks (D-Ithaca), Randy Brown (R-Newfield), Amanda Champion (D-Ithaca), Dan Klein (D-Danby), and Mike Sigler (R-Lansing) opposed).

Food Systems Plan

$50,000 in one-time funds were approved 12-2 (Legislators Shawna Black (D-Ithaca) and Amanda Champion (D-Ithaca) opposed) to support a grant writing initiative under the Food Systems Plan/Tompkins Food Futures.

Amendment - Assessment Position

An assistant real property appraiser position was approved 11-3 (Legislators Travis Brooks (D-Ithaca), Randy Brown (R-Newfield), and Greg Mezey (D-Dryden) opposed)  for the Assessment department totaling $84,565.

Amendment – Voting Machine Technician

$34,457 was approved 13-1 (Legislator Travis Brooks (D-Ithaca) opposed) to support fully staffing the Board of Elections Voting Machine Technician’s Office, bringing two part time positions to fill time.

Amendment – Operations Support for Tompkins County Public Library

$113,241 to support the operational cost increases faced by TCPL from labor contracts was approved 10-4 (Legislators Randy Brown (R-Newfield), Lee Shurtleff (R-Groton), Mike Sigler (R-Lansing, and Deborah Dawson (D-Lansing) opposed).

Amendment – Ultimate Reentry Opportunity Beyond the Box Initiative

$38,500 will support training employers to hire and retain people reentering the workforce after incarceration. This is a new, on-time initiative that follows a study and coincides with several other initiatives supporting this population, it was approved 11-3 (Legislators Amanda Champion (D-Ithaca), Rich John (D-Ithaca) and Dan Klein (D-Danby) opposed).

Amendment – Veterans Services Officer Restoration

$70,294 was approved to restore the position of veterans service officer by a vote of 11-3 (Legislators Amanda Champion (D-Ithaca), Dan Klein (D-Danby), and Rich John (D-Ithaca) opposed).

Amendment – Making Two Sheriff’s Deputies Target Funded

A resolution to fund two Sheriff’s Deputy positions via target funding (previously funded with one-time funds) was approved 14-0, costing $261,864.

Roundup of Additional Amendments Approved

A probation officer position was restored to target funding after having been reduced during the recent soft hiring freeze (14-0).

The position of budget director in County Administration was approved 14-0. It had previously been reduced during the recent soft hiring freeze.

A systems administrator position in Information Technology Services was approved 14-0.

A youth services specialist position was restored after the soft hiring freeze by a vote of 13-0 (Legislator Travis Brooks (D-Ithaca) absent).

A $17,634 cost of living adjustment for municipal youth services passed 13-0 (Legislator Travis Brooks (D-Ithaca) absent).

$7,000 in funding for the Youth Services Recreation Partnership passed 14-0. The funding is matched by local municipalities.

$59,648 for sustaining improved security services at the Tompkins County Public Library was approved 14-0.

Opportunities Alternatives and Resources (OAR) received $17,000 in one time funding approval for maintenance of effort support and helping to train staff in de-escalation (14-0). The funds will go to support staffing that greets clients and supports them with resources.

$50,000 was approved to support the Greater Ithaca Activities Center (GIAC)’s Hospitality Employee Training Program. The funding is one-time and contingent upon a Strategic Tourism Grant not being approved (though many expect it to be approved) in 2024. 

$20,000 for the Humans Services Coalition contingency fund that supports agencies was approved 11-3 (Legislators Shawna Black (D-Ithaca), Travis Brooks (D-Ithaca), and Amanda Champion (D-Ithaca) opposed).

$50,000 in one-time grant funds for municipal parks was approved.

$20,000 was approved unanimously for a Housing Affordability and Supportive Infrastructure grant program through the Planning and Sustainability Department.

$4,474 was approved unanimously for membership dues for the Planning and Sustainability Department.

$3,500 for the County Historian’s publication of historical pamphlets was approved 13-1 (Legislator Deborah Dawson (D-Lansing) opposed). Two upcoming pamphlets will be on the topics of Local LGBTQ+ history and the architect William Henry Miller.

The increased cost of $2,000 to place flags on the headstones of veterans was approved 14-0.

A project manager position in the Facilities Department was approved 14-0. The $120,791 in multi-year one-time funding for the position will support the County’s upcoming construction projects.

$39,783 for TCAT operating expense increases was approved unanimously. The same amount is being contributed by Cornell and the City of Ithaca, all underwriters of the bus service.

$12,500 to support training for Sheriff’s Deputies and $17,500 to support training for jail personnel was approved unanimously.

$41,275 for Axon Body Camera and Taser Equipment at the Sheriff’s Office and Jail was approved 14-0.

An accounting position in the Finance Department was moved from a one-time position into the target budget for $110,744 (14-0). A purchasing position was moved to full time, target for $22,149 (14-0).

$50,000 to fund additional auditing services for three new Governmental Accounting Standards Board requirements passed 14-0.

The software used to track the Legislature’s agendas and minutes was approved 14-0, $31,782 for upgrading software for the Legislature, a one-time purchase, and $8,857 target increase for ongoing maintenance.

$13,000 was approved to support travel and training expenses for the Legislature. The funding supports attendance at conferences and other trainings (14-0).