2024 Budget Adopted, Debt Reserve Fund Established
The Tompkins County Legislature adopted the 2024 Budget and 2024-2028 Capital Program by a vote of 13-1 (Legislator Greg Mezey (D-Dryden) opposed). The Budget adopts a 2024 tax levy growth of 2%, equaling an approximate $50.17 increase (to $1,321) in County taxes on a median priced home of $249,000. A total of $53,445,119 will be levied from property taxes to support the 2024 Tompkins County budget. More information about the 2024 Tompkins County Budget can be found on a new public-facing budget website (https://tcgov.co/2024budgetbook).
Legislative amendments approved in the budget are detailed on the County website in a previous version of the Highlights and total $4,798,657.
The passage of the budget follows months of discussion via the Expanded Budget Committee of the Legislature. Legislator Deborah Dawson (D-Lansing), who chairs the Budget, Capital, and Personnel Committee thanked the Legislature and County Administration staff for all their efforts during this budget process. In citing his opposition to the resolution, Legislator Greg Mezey (D-Dryden), stated that, given the available funding in the County reserves, a 2% increase on the tax levy is “totally unnecessary.”
The Legislature established a Debt Reserve Fund and allocated $5,720,503 of fund balance to constitute the fund. The fund will set aside the portion of the County’s fund balance that would be drawn down as debt is repaid by the County on its capital projects. Prior to the establishment of this fund, the debt has been paid as part of the yearly budget and supported by the tax levy – this shift opens that portion of the budget to support other initiatives or programs including the Legislature’s amendments for over target requests.
Home, Together: Tompkins Plan Accepted
The Legislature unanimously passed a resolution accepting the Home, Together: Tompkins Plan produced by the Ithaca/Tompkins County Continuum of Care (CoC), the local planning organization charged with coordinating the local homeless response system. Accepting the plan results in the Legislature thanking the plans authors and acknowledging receipt of the plan.
The resolution acknowledges that “unsheltered homelessness is a persistent and growing challenge in the community,” and that “Tompkins County plays a critical role in providing services to address unsheltered homelessness and seeks to work collaboratively with the CoC agencies in provision of these services.” Additional documentation was provided to the Legislature regarding opportunities for the Legislature to consider in support of elements of the plan, and an inventory of local homeless housing facilities and beds.
Legislator Greg Mezey (D-Dryden), who chairs the County’s Housing and Economic Development Committee stated, “Accepting this plan accepts the body of work, and allows the County to choose which actions outlined in the plan that it would like to adopt in order to address the issue of homelessness.”
Legislator Rich John (D-Ithaca) noted his opposition to many of the points raised in the Home Together Tompkins Plan but voted to accept the plan with the recommendation for further study on the proposed solutions outlined in the plan.
Among Other Business
A resolution authorizing a multi- year funding agreement between the County and the Chamber of Commerce for the operation of the Ithaca/Tompkins County Convention and Visitors Bureau was amended to postpone from consideration pending further staff review 10-4 (Legislators Mike Lane (D-Dryden), Greg Mezey (D-Dryden), Mike Sigler (R-Lansing), and Travis Brooks (D-Ithaca) opposed). Legislator Randy Brown (R-Newfield) stated that “This is a lot of money, I realize the money is coming from hotel tax, and I want to see that if there is big reduction in revenue that the budget can be adjusted.”
In offering the amendment to postpone, Deborah Dawson (D-Lansing) stated “I am concerned about the issue of what happens if for some reason hotel tax revenues fall below what we’re obligated to pay out of this contract.”
Expressing support for the agreement, Greg Mezey (D-Dryden) reminded colleagues that the Legislature sent a strong message to the Strategic Tourism Planning Board (STPB) to increase reserves with surplus funding to weather future storms if necessary, and “members of the STPB have heard these messages from the Legislature and put them into practice moving forward.”
A proclamation was read celebrating Home Health Care Week from November 12th –18th in recognition of home health care aides as vital members of our health-care team and their contributions to improving the quality of life of our older citizens, people with disabilities, and their families.
November is Runaway and Homeless Youth Awareness Month, and a proclamation was accepted by staff of the Learning Web and Open Doors of Family and Children’s Services of Ithaca, local organizations currently serving youth at risk of homelessness.
The Legislature proclaimed November 6th – 11th as Veterans Week in Tompkins County. In accepting the proclamation, County Veterans Services Director J.R. Clairborne made note of several events occurring throughout the week to honor veterans in the County.
A resolution urging Governor Hochul and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to protect Cayuga Lake water quality by requiring of Cargill Salt Mine a full environmental review, a closure plan, and a surety bond to ensure safe closure passed 11-3, (Legislators Rich John (D-Ithaca), Lee Shurtleff (R- Groton), and Mike Sigler (R-Lansing) opposed). Legislator Deborah Dawson (D-Lansing), upon moving an amended version of the resolution, noted her concerns with the lack of transparency on behalf of Cargill, urging for a full independent and public environmental review of the long-term impact of the mine on the publicly owned Cayuga Lake. Legislator Mike Sigler (R-Lansing), in opposition to the resolution, emphasized the high level of environmental review that Cargill is already held to by NYS DEC. Legislator Sigler also noted the lack of evidence that the Cargill salt mine has contributed to the salination of Cayuga Lake. Legislators in support of the resolution emphasized that it does not advocate for the closure of the mine but rather requests further environmental review and full transparency on its environmental impacts. Several members of the public utilized the Public Privilege of the Floor period to voice their support for the resolution.