Highlights of the April 7, 2004 meeting of the
Tompkins County Legislature

By a vote of 11-1 (Thomas Todd voted no; three Legislators were absent), the Legislature approved a total of $37,900 in tourism grants to local organizations. An amendment put forward by Dooley Kiefer to add a $5,000 grant for Ithaca Festival failed 8 - 4. Opponents said they felt that, because the Ithaca Festival does not meet the current tourism grant guidelines, it would be unfair to fund it outside the usual process. The grants, which are completely supported by the County hotel and motel room occupancy tax, will go to the following:

  • 7th Art Corporation, $3,000, for the Ithaca Film Festival 2004;
  • Music in Motion and Ithaca Festival, $5,000, for National Dance Week/Sharing Our Cultures;
  • Town of Lansing, $2,200, for Music in the Park 2004 concerts
  • New York Bicycling Coalition, $4,000, for 2005 Bike Events Calendar;
  • Cayuga Chimes, $5,000, for 2005 Finger Lakes Barbershop Invitational;
  • Ithaca Downtown Partnership, $5,000, for 2004 Downtown Ithaca Holidays Around the World;
  • Finger Lake Finns, $2,500, for Finn Funn Weekend 2004;
  • Cornell Cooperative Extension Beautification Program, $1,600, for Open Days Garden Tours 2004;
  • Ithaca Triathlon Club, $2,500, for 2nd Annual Cayuga Lake Triathlon
  • Ithaca A Cappella, $3,100, for Choral Arts Tourism Awareness;
  • Co-op Energy Plus Energy Cooperative of CNY, $500, for Ithaca Earth Day Energy Conference;
  • Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce Foundation, $3,500, for Late Night in Winter.

A number of smaller grants for community festivals and celebrations, totaling $7,005, were also awarded without debate. The tourism and celebration grants were reviewed and recommended to the Legislature by the Strategic Tourism Planning Board. Contact: Kathy Luz Herrera, Chair, Planning, Development, and Environmental Quality Committee, 273-8169.

County Administrator Steve Whicher said his very early estimate of the 2005 Tompkins County budget indicates a $3 million - $4 million gap, which roughly translates to the need for a 10 percent tax levy increase. Early estimates of the assessed value in the County show an increase in assessments due to increased property values that could yield 10 percent more levy. The levy is the entire amount of property tax the County collects in a year. The tax rate is the dollar amount per thousand of assessed value. An increase in the levy means it may be possible to have a no increase or even a reduction in the 2005 County property tax rate (currently $7.47 per $1,000), particularly if sales tax revenues continue to climb. Details of this very early estimate will be discussed at the County’s Budget and Capital Committee, which meets at 11:30 a.m. in the Old Jail, 125 East Court Street, next Tuesday, said Whicher. Contact: Steve Whicher, County Administrator, 274-5551.

A group of young people who have experienced homelessness presented a report to the Legislature on the plight of homeless youth in Tompkins County. The young people worked with youth workers to design and conduct a survey of other homeless youth. Sixteen young people who have experienced homelessness themselves conducted the survey between January 28 and March 18 of this year. A collaborative effort of Cornell University’s Family Life Development Center, the Tompkins County Youth Services Department, the Learning Web, and young adult participants in the Youth Outreach Program, the survey revealed that for many of the 165 young people interviewed, stable housing is a major problem.

A vast majority of the youth interviewed said they had stayed at multiple places over the past year. A third reported having stayed outdoors, and 80 percent reported having stayed in locations not intended for human habitation, such as rooftops, stairwells, abandoned buildings, and cars. Among other places young people had stayed were jail, emergency shelters, with relatives, and – most often – with groups of other youth. Thirty-nine percent of those interviewed said they had left their homes to escape abuse, and 32 percent left because of conflicts in the household. Many have been involved in the foster care and/or juvenile justice systems. The top five needs of homeless and impoverished youth were reported as transportation, housing, finding a job, help with education, and affording food.

One young person commented on the disconnect between the 12- to 18-month wait for federally subsidized Section 8 housing vouchers and the 30-day limit on emergency shelter stays. Another mentioned the impossibility of affording a monthly bus pass to get to work or the community college. The young people were in agreement that boredom, not having a community or family base, and looking for escape from the realities of their lives are driving forces for two of the major threats to their well-being: drug use and unsafe sexual practices. The youth who spoke at the meeting said that they and others who struggle with housing and other issues need more help from community adults and agencies. Contact: Nancy Zahler, Director, County Youth Services Department, 274-5310.

County home page