Highlights of the February 18, 2003 meeting of the
Tompkins County Board of Representatives
CAP MEDICAID, SAYS COUNTY TO STATE
The legislature unanimously approved a resolution calling on the governor, state assembly and senate to provide local property tax relief by capping countiesí share of Medicaid payments at the 2001 level. A shift in Medicaid funding from the state to the local level has played fiscal havoc with county budgets all over New York State. A survey by the New York State Association of Counties - sponsor of the Cap Medicaid Now movement - shows that, in 56 counties that responded, Medicaid expenses are growing, many increasing 15 - 25 percent, some as much as 40 percent. The result of this almost universal burden is that counties are banding together in organizations such as the Southern Tier Organization to Reform Medicaid (STORM) to demand changes in the tax balance, funding of Medicaid, and other measures that will stop the shift of taxation to property owners. In a related matter, legislature chair Tim Joseph reported on a proposal he is developing to ask the state to completely take over all Medicaid costs in return for the County accepting complete responsibility for some other state-aided programs. Contacts: Tim Joseph, Chair of the Legislature, 277-2519; Peter Penniman, Chair, Budget & Capital Committee, 387-3928, 387-5897.

INCREASED RETIREMENT COSTS LIKELY TO ADD TO COUNTY BUDGET WOES
The Countyís contribution to employee retirement plans could escalate dramatically in 2003 and 2004, County Finance Director David Squires reported. Last week, New York State Comptroller Alan Hevesi announced that the poor performance of the stock market is shrinking the size of the state pension fund for government employees, which includes County staff. In a letter to the County, Hevesi warned of the impending need to increase local payments into the pension fund. Tompkins County paid about $365,000 - or approximately 1.5 percent of its payroll - in 2002. The contribution could increase to as much as 11 percent. The consequences for Tompkins County could be an increase to over $2.6 million in its retirement fund contribution. Contact: Finance Director David Squires, 274-5545.

BOND RE-SALE WILL SAVE COUNTY MONEY
County Finance Director David Squires reported that a measure to call in and resell about $10 million in outstanding bonds will save the County around $70,000 a year, or a total of $780,000, in debt service payments. The savings are possible because the County is able to refinance the debt at a lower interest rate. Contact: Finance Director David Squires, 274-5545.

CONTRACTORS CHOSEN FOR 911 CENTER
Construction on Tompkins Countyís new 911 dispatch center on Brown Road is scheduled to start March 1. The legislature awarded bids for the center to:
 

Edger Construction, Inc., Elmira Heights, NY
     $946,100
General Construction
R.G. Burns Electric, Stanley, NY
     $551,000
Electrical Systems
Airtech HVAC Systems, Inc., Liverpool, NY
     $414,500
Mechanical Systems
Postler & Jaeckle, Horseheads, NY
     $197,700
Plumbing

The construction contracts for the building total $2,109,300. A total of $3 million has been approved for the project, which will include a new communications tower at the site. All but $300,000 of the project is being provided by tobacco settlement funds, saving the County the cost of borrowing. 

SPREAD EMPIRE ZONES TO ALL COUNTIES, URGES LEGISLATURE
By a vote of 12 to 1 (Thomas Todd voted no; Leslyn McBean and Daniel Winch were absent), the legislature supported a resolution that asks the state to change the way it approves Empire Zones, designated areas that encourage business development through tax and other economic incentives. There are 72 Empire Zones statewide, but none in Tompkins and ten other counties that fail to meet the criteria. The eleven non-Empire Zone counties are placed at a disadvantage, argued the resolutionís supporters. The measure asks the state to expand the program to all counties. A recent application for an Empire Zone in Tompkins was rejected because the countyís economic and demographic profile did not meet all of the requirements. Contact: Michael Lane, chair, Planning, Development, and Environmental Quality Committee, 844-8440.

COUNTYíS FIRST YOUTH AWARD GOES TO DRYDEN SERTEEN CLUB 
The 67 teenagers in the Dryden Serteen Club are the first recipients of the Tompkins County Distinguished Youth Award. The club, an offshoot of the local Sertoma Club, is open to all teens in the Dryden school district and performs community service in Dryden and Tompkins County. Examples of recent club projects include cleaning walls and shelves at the Dryden Kitchen Cupboard, bell ringing for the Salvation Army, collection of clothing and personal items for the Red Cross to distribute to the homeless, and helping out at other not-for-profit groupsí events. The Serteen Club was nominated for the award by Michael Lane, legislator from Dryden and an advisor to the group. The club was given small gifts donated by area businesses, including tickets for each member to a Cornell University basketball game. The monthly youth award was suggested by Caroline legislator Frank Proto as a way to recognize individual young people or youth groups who have made significant contributions to the community. Any Tompkins County resident, group, or organization may submit a youth award nomination to any member of the County legislature or to the Office of the Tompkins County Legislature, 320 N. Tioga Street, Ithaca, NY 14850. Contacts: Michael Lane, 844-8440; Frank Proto, 277-4875.
 
 
 

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