Highlights from the November 21, 2000 meeting of the
Tompkins County Board of Representatives
BOARD APPROVES 2001 BUDGET
The Board of Representatives narrowly approved a $102 million County budget for 2001. The budget increases County property tax by 2.4 percent over this year’s rate, adding approximately $13.00 to the tax bill for a $100,000 house.
The budget, which contains $52.6 million in local spending, was approved by an 8-6 vote. Board member Barbara Blanchard was absent. Voting in favor of the budget were Reps. Susanne Davis, Tim Joseph, Michael Koplinka-Loehr, Michael Lane, Barbara Mink, Peter Penniman, Nancy Schuler, and Stuart Stein. Voting no were Reps. Charles Evans, Dooley Kiefer, Frank Proto, Thomas Todd, George Totman, and Daniel Winch. The capital program, which was amended to include an additional $1.4 million to purchase a building for Tompkins Community Action (see below), passed by a vote of 12-2.
A distinguishing feature of the 2001 budget is the use of $7.7 in surplus funds. The Board agreed to use just under $5.2 million of that amount to fund one-time expenses, and $2.5 million for new and ongoing programs. While extensive debate revolved around the issue of using surplus to take the place of tax dollars, a resolution to use $200,000 less – and raise taxes by another 1 percent – was defeated.
Another unusual feature of the budget is the allocation to the County’s capital projects program of a one-time lump sum of $7 million gained from sale of tobacco settlement payments. The County has sold half of its rights to tobacco suit payments for the next 30 years. Increased programs – including a new multi-pronged Alternatives to Incarceration initiative – more staff positions, an increased operating budget for the new Public Library, and union-guaranteed pay raises helped to expand the County budget.
2001 BUDGET SUMMARY
TOTAL BUDGET (includes state and federal pass-through $) -- $102,038,481
LOCAL SHARE (revenue from sales tax, property tax, fees etc.) -- $52,642,285
TOTAL SURPLUS FUNDS USED -- $7,710,962
SURPLUS USED TO OFFSET TAX INCREASE -- $2,565,730
TOTAL COUNTY PROPERTY TAX LEVY -- $20,033,105
TAX RATE (per $1,000 of assessed property value) -- $5.45
SOLID WASTE ANNUAL FEE (residential/no change from 2000) -- $51.00
BOARD AGREES TO PURCHASE BUILDING FOR TOMPKINS COMMUNITY ACTION
The Board agreed by a 11-3 vote (Reps. Dooley Kiefer, Frank Proto, and George Totman voted no; Rep. Barbara Blanchard was absent) to issue bonds for $1.4 million to purchase the former Evaporated Metals building at 701 Spencer Road, Ithaca. Tompkins Community Action, which occupies the building, has agreed to repay the County through a long-term lease. Tompkins Community Action is a private not-for-profit organization that offers services and economic aid to lower-income residents.
DISPATCHERS WILL MOVE FROM SHERIFF’S OFFICE TO CENTRAL LOCATION
In a first step toward countywide consolidation of emergency dispatch services, the Board approved a measure that transfers five full-time dispatcher positions from the Sheriff’s Office to the County Fire and Disaster Coordinator’s office. The staffers will start work on January 1, 2001 at the Central Fire Station, on West Green Street. The move is a prelude to full consolidation of dispatch services among the Ithaca City fire and police departments and the Sheriff’s department. Planners have been researching the best location for a new consolidated dispatch center; a decision on that location is expected early next year.
BOARD URGES REFORM OF ROCKEFELLER DRUG LAWS
A resolution supporting a bill sponsored by State Assemblyman Marty Luster to reform the highly punitive 1973 Rockefeller Drug Laws was approved by a unanimous vote (14-0; Rep. Barbara Blanchard was absent). The resolution states that the County legislators believe local residents are better served by courts that can take advantage of drug treatment programs and other interventions, including reasonable jail time, to handle non-violent drug offenders. Luster’s bill, A10051, would among other things amend current laws that make possession of even small amounts of a controlled substance a Class A felony.
911 CELL PHONE LAW PASSES
The Board unanimously (14-0; Rep. Barbara Blanchard was absent) passed a local law that will require cellular phone companies to route all 911 calls originating in Tompkins County directly to the County’s dispatch center. Currently only one cell phone provider in the county does so. Other 911 cell phone calls are routed to the nearest State Police headquarters. The local law will allow cell phone providers to route emergency calls to the County’s central dispatch facility instead, potentially improving response time.