|2006 BUDGET PASSES WITH A ZERO PERCENT TAX LEVY CHANGE
The Legislature voted 14 to 1 to approve a 2006 County budget that holds the property tax levy (total amount of County property tax collected) at the 2005 level. The Legislators made a few adjustments to the final budget, including adding $6,190 to fund a purchase of wind energy for County buildings, and $1,700 for support of the Agriculture and Farm Land Protection Board. None of these changes had much effect on the final tax levy, which is $1,098 under the 2005 level. The total County budget, including state and federal revenue, reimbursements, and other sources of funding, is about $114.5 million. The “local share” – about $65.7 million – covers the areas of spending over which Legislators have control through approval of allocations, levying of taxes, and use of existing resources. Legislator Barbara Blanchard cast the sole no vote.
Comparison of 2005 and 2006 adopted Tompkins County budgets
Local Share (spending on local programs; revenue is raised from the local community, primarily through property and sales tax)
2006: $65,775,707 Percent change: +3.1
Property Tax Levy (total amount to be collected from owners of taxable property)
2006: $33,102,442 Percent change: 0.0
Sales Tax (sales tax revenue the County received in 2005 and anticipates receiving in 2006)
Use of Fund Balance (amount of existing funds used to support budget items)
Property Tax Rate (amount per $1,000 of assessed property value)
2006: $6.59 Percent change: -8.2
County Property Tax for home assessed at $100,000 (median assessed home value is $131,000)
2006: $659.00 (down $59.00)
COUNTY WILL RECEIVE $3.6 MILLION IN TOBACCO BOND REFINANCING
County Finance Director David Squires reported that the County will receive $3,659,502 as a result of refinancing its outstanding tobacco settlement bonds. The proceeds of the bond refinancing will be used to support a portion of the County’s share of capital costs for building expansion at Tompkins Cortland Community College. Squires indicated that the proceeds from the financing will save the County approximately $6 million in debt service over the next 20 years. By law, gains from tobacco settlement bonds must be used for capital projects. Because the County opted in 2000 to sell only half the rights to its future tobacco payments, it will still receive annual payments from the tobacco industry settlement.
WINCH RESIGNS FROM LEGISLATURE; STEVENSON WILL STEP IN
Retiring Legislator Daniel Winch (R-Enfield/Newfield) announced that he is resigning his seat on the Legislature as of November 30. Winch stated personal reasons that will keep him from attending meetings in December. Winch, who did not run for re-election, has served on the Board of Representatives, later renamed the County Legislature, for 20 years and nine months. Democrat Greg Stevenson, who won the election in Winch’s district, will succeed Winch. Stevenson will take office and serve on the Legislature starting December 1.
COUNTY REJECTS SALES TAX EXEMPTION ON CLOTHING
The Legislature voted 13 to 2 against granting a permanent sales tax exemption for shoes and clothing purchases up to $110. New York State recently offered counties the option of removing the local portion of the sales tax from these purchases. Several of the Legislators who spoke against the exemption – which could cost the County as much as $700,000 annually – said they felt dropping the sales tax would result in an increase in property tax. The state’s portion (4 cents per dollar) of the sales tax on shoes and clothing will be removed in April 2006. Legislators Kathy Luz Herrera and Michael Lane voted in favor of the exemption.
TAX-EXEMPT BONDS APPROVED FOR TC3 DORMITORY; LABOR WAGES A CONCERN
The Legislature voted 9 to 6 to approve the issuance by the Tompkins County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) of up to $7 million in tax-exempt bonds for the construction of a new dormitory at Tompkins Cortland Community College. The Legislators who opposed the bonding did so because the TC3 Foundation, Inc., which is the bond recipient, has stated it will not support “prevailing wage” standards for labor on the project. The foundation is a not-for-profit corporation separate from the college. Voting against the bonding were Kathy Luz Herrera, Tim Joseph, Dooley Kiefer, Leslyn McBean-Clairborne, Martha Robertson, and Nancy Schuler.