Highlights of the June 19, 2007 meeting
of the
Tompkins County Legislature
New Structure on Biggs Site or NYSEG Headquarters Considered for Health Department
Giving the Legislature its first look at options for a new Health Department Building, the committee that has been studying the matter for the past six months told legislators it should decide whether to construct a new building on county-owned land near the current Biggs complex or move the department to existing facilities, at the New York State Electric and Gas building on Route 13 in Dryden. Tonight was the first time that it was publicly revealed that the NYSEG facility is under consideration. Legislators were told that these “east side/west side” options are, in the Health Department Building Committee’s judgment, the best of a number of potential alternatives considered during the committee’s study. Legislators spent an hour in executive session, where committee members, planning staff and the County’s consultant from LaBella Associates reviewed financial aspects of the alternate proposals. Legislators have been asked to raise questions and tell the committee additional information that they need to make an informed decision.

At the beginning of the Legislature meeting, former Legislator Mike Lane urged legislators to move the health department building to a new location, either at the county seat or near the Route 13 Corridor. Lane maintained that the “first and foremost duty is access” in determining a site, giving people who reside throughout the county equal access. The Legislature is scheduled to vote at its next meeting on July 17th, when features of the proposals will become public.
Contact: Frank Proto, Chair, Health Department Building Committee, 277-4875

Legislature Approves Tompkins Cortland Community College Budget
The Legislature, by unanimous vote (Legislators Martha Robertson and Leslyn McBean-Clairborne were absent) adopted Tompkins Cortland Community College’s 2007-2008 operating budget. The more than $30 million budget includes a Tompkins County contribution of $3.9 million, a five percent increase in sponsor contribution from the previous year. As part of the action, the Legislature commits to include the required funding in the 2008 Tompkins County budget. No one spoke at a public hearing preceding the vote. Budget and Capital Committee chair Mike Koplinka-Loehr noted that, while this year’s sponsor contribution is increasing by five percent, the local contribution over the past ten years has risen by less than three percent. Legislator Dick Booth described the College’s achievements as reflected in the budget as “very impressive and very exciting.”
Contact: Michael Koplinka-Loehr, Chair, Budget and Capital Committee, 257-2329

2008 Budget Guidelines Adopted for County Departments and Agencies
Following up its adoption at its last meeting of a two percent tax levy increase goal for the 2008 county budget, the Legislature, by a 9-5 vote, established fiscal targets for departments and agencies in the 2008 budget process. (Legislators Jim Dennis, Nathan Shinagawa, Pam Mackesey, Dooley Kiefer and Chair Tim Joseph voted no; Legislator Martha Robertson was absent.) The action sets the fiscal targets for not-for-profit agencies and for county municipalities and agencies receiving reimbursements under the Sales Tax Agreement with the City of Ithaca at the amount approved in the adopted 2007 budget. For county departments, the target equals the 2007 budget target plus negotiated salary increases and associated fringe expense. None of the fiscal targets includes any prior one-time funding nor any funds re-appropriated from previous years. The Legislature directs County Administrator Steve Whicher to work with departments and agencies to develop a budget to achieve the two percent tax levy increase goal.
Contact: Michael Koplinka-Loehr, Chair, Budget and Capital Committee, 257-2329

By Party-Line Vote, Legislature Endorses County Housing Strategy
By a vote of 10-4, the Legislature endorsed the county’s Housing Strategy, a report prepared by the county Planning Department. Republicans Frank Proto, Mike Sigler, Tyke Randall and Mike Hattery voted no. The findings are endorsed as a starting point in a plan to address the need to increase and diversify the county’s housing supply. An Affordable Housing Needs Assessment completed a year ago identified the need for nearly 4,000 new non-student housing units over the next decade, more than half specified as affordable for families making 80 percent or less of median household income. There was much debate before the vote – regarding whether wording could be changed at a time when an alternate version is being considered by other municipalities; the role of the strategy and whether it would limit municipal control over housing issues and whether the private sector had been adequately consulted. Planning and Public Works Commissioner Ed Marx called the strategy a “guidance document”, not a regulation.
Contact: Planning and Public Works Commissioner Ed Marx, 274-5560; Pamela Mackesey, Vice Chair, Planning, Development, and Environmental Quality Committee, 273-620.

Four Ithaca High Students Recognized as Distinguished Youth
Students Ben Coleman, Kaiya Namaste-Bercow, Rorie Dean and Whitney Elrod were recognized as this month’s Tompkins County Distinguished Youth for their work with Ithaca High School’s Link Crew mentoring program. Link Crew in its first year at Ithaca High paired 84 upperclass students with incoming freshmen at Ithaca High, to help them adapt to high school and to succeed both academically and socially. The Distinguished Youth Award is cosponsored by A&B Awards and Engraving, Bangs Ambulance Service, Purity Ice Cream and Cayuga Radio Group.
Contact: Legislature Office, 274-5434.

Among other actions the Legislature
  •  Urged that the New York State Department of Health and the state legislature address the shortage of home health care workers, noting that the demand for home care services in the county has risen substantially in recent years, with demand projected to increase further with aging of the local population. Health and Human Services chairman Nathan Shinagawa will present the Legislature’s resolution to the “People First” Coordinated Core Listening Forum with state Commissioner of Health Dr. Richard Daines on June 20 in Syracuse.
  •  Transferred the county’s Economic Development Loan Fund from the county Planning Department to Tompkins County Area Development, Inc. The vote was 11-2, with Legislators Frank Proto and Kathy Luz Herrera voting no. The Economic Development Loan Fund is funded through grants from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and the New York State Governor’s Office for Small Cities. As part of the transfer, the County will transfer $100,000 to TCAD and cover administrative costs for one year at a cost not to exceed $18,000. As part of its responsibilities, TCAD will report annually to the County on loan activity and performance.
  •  Accepted several grants: a more than quarter-million dollar grant received under New York State’s Shared Municipal Services Incentive Program to support the Tompkins County Council of Governments’ efforts to design and establish a consortium for public employee health insurance open to all municipalities within Tompkins County; $36,500 in New York State Quality Communities Program Grant funds to work with the Finger Lakes Land Trust to prepare a detailed plan for the section of the Finger Lakes Trail known as the Emerald Necklace; and a $754 award from the Rotary Club of Ithaca to the county’s Workforce Development Board, which will provide computer software needed to increase accessibility to the agency’s “One Stop” program for individuals with disabilities.