Highlights of the December 18, 2007 meeting
of the
Tompkins County Legislature
Tim Joseph Chairs Final Legislature Meeting
Tim Joseph, who has served seven years as Chair of the County Legislature, thanked his “legislative colleagues, past and present” for their support and “all County staff who did their jobs efficiently and productively” as he gave his final report as Chair of the Tompkins County Legislature.  Mr. Joseph, who has said he is stepping down from his leadership position as of the end of this term, said that it is the work of County staff that has earned Tompkins County its reputation as one of the best run municipalities, both in this area and throughout New York State.

Administrator Steve Whicher, speaking on behalf of the County’s department heads, praised Joseph for his “fairness, insight and balance” as Chair, as well as the ability to be stern, when it was needed.
Contact:  Tim Joseph, Chair of the Legislature, 277-2519; County Administrator Stephen Whicher, 274-5551.
Legislature Expresses Official Appreciation to Former Colleague Dick Booth
On the day that voters in the Legislature’s District 3 voted to elect his successor, the Legislature by unanimous vote approved a Resolution of Appreciation recognizing former Legislator Dick Booth, recognizing his contributions during nearly six years of legislative service.

Mr. Booth resigned from the Legislature last month to accept a governor’s appointment to the state’s Adirondack Park Agency.  

The resolution praises Legislator Booth as an “outstanding” member of the Legislature’s Budget and Capital Committee over the years, often inserting “his own brand of fiscal responsibility” into many of the committee’s discussions and decisions.

The resolution also notes, “Dick is well known for infusing his own personal honesty and integrity in every vote he took, and we know these characteristics will benefit all the citizens of the immediate Adirondack Park area, as well as statewide, as Dick applies his knowledge and expertise on all issues affecting the future of the Park.”
Contact:  Legislator James Dennis, 387-4058.

Legislature Considers, But Fails to Approve 2008 Managerial Salary Increases
The Legislature, by a split vote of 6 to 6, with Legislators McBean-Clairborne and Tyke Randall absent, failed to approve a recommended 3 percent salary increase for County managerial employees in 2008.  Under the recommendation, two managerial employees, whose salary exceeds the current salary schedule, would have received increases of 2.25 percent.  (Legislators Mike Sigler, Mike Hattery, Dooley Kiefer, Pam Mackesey, Frank Proto and Martha Robertson voted no.)  Legislator Kiefer expressed concern that setting a 3 percent increase level now for managerial employees might affect negotiations with the County’s White Collar union, which are currently at impasse.  Kiefer had suggested an amendment, which failed by a vote of 5-7, which would have reduced the salary increase for most managerial staff to 2.3 percent (the level of the 2008 Social Security cost of living adjustment.)  It is likely that the issue of managerial salaries will be discussed again, once a new Personnel Committee is seated after the first of the year.

By a vote of 9 to 3, with Legislators Kathy Luz Herrera, Dooley Kiefer and Pam Mackesey voting no, the Legislature authorized incumbents in the positions of Psychiatrist, Medical Director/Mental Health and Deputy County Attorney (whose salary rates exceed the managerial salary schedule) to be eligible to receive the same fringe benefits and same annual salary adjustments as other management staff without a special resolution of the Legislature, as has been required in the past.
Contact:  James Dennis, Chair, Personnel Committee, 387-4058.

Legislature Approves IDA Bonds for Cornell Heating Plant Project
The Legislature, by unanimous vote (with Legislators Leslyn McBean-Clairborne and Tyke Randall absent) approved issuance of up to $70 million in Industrial Development Agency Civic Revenue Bonds to support expansion of Cornell University’s central heating plant and related system improvements.  The approval authorizes the IDA to act as a conduit for University financing of the project, enabling it to access tax-free bonds under provision of the federal internal revenue code, and does not incur any County financial obligation to the project.
Contact:  Martha Robertson, Chair, Planning , Development, and Environmental Quality Committee, 272-0584.

Sustainability Policies Approved, New Solid Waste Fee Established
After considerable discussion regarding wording changes, Legislators by unanimous vote approved two new sustainability policies for county government, one covering waste reduction and resource management in County buildings, the other revising the County’s policy on surplus equipment.  Both policies were developed by employee members of the County’s cross-functional Sustainability Team.

Legislators, also without dissent, set the billing unit charge for the 2008 solid waste annual fee at $54, up from the current $52, an increase first discussed during the 2008 budget process.  The action also specifies separate fees for all tax-exempt parcels owned by area colleges and Tompkins-Seneca-Tioga BOCES.  Through the fee structure, these institutions will contribute more than a quarter-million dollars in solid waste fees.
Contact:  Kathy Luz Herrera, Chair, Facilities and Infrastructure Committee, 273-8169; Barbara Eckstrom, Solid Waste Division Manager, 273-6632.

Among other actions, the Legislature

§ Recognized 2007 Ithaca High School graduates Meredith Buchberg and Laura Willemsen as December’s Tompkins County Distinguished Youth Award.  Meredith, from the Town of Ithaca, (now a student at Rice University ) and Laura, from the City of Ithaca, (now a student at Binghamton University) were recognized for their many academic and civic accomplishments, including their research, as Student Historians at the History Center, where their independent research confirmed that Ithaca is indeed the home of the ice cream sundae.  The Distinguished Youth Award is cosponsored by A&B Awards and Engraving, Bangs Ambulance, Purity Ice Cream and Cayuga Radio Group.

§ Through a special proclamation, recognized Jim Blizzard, who has served the County’s Public Information program for the past 15 years, never missing the videotaping of a County government meeting or a call for service.  In honor of Mr. Blizzard’s many contributions and his “genuine and kind nature, ” Chair Tim Joseph proclaimed December 19, 2007 as “Care For Others Day” in Tompkins County, in honor of Jim.

§ Approved a number of year-end resolutions, several of them related to implementation of the 2008 Tompkins County budget, and approved 43 appointments to County advisory boards.  Among these actions, legislators authorized Finance Director David Squires to issue up to $8 million in Revenue Anticipation Notes, in anticipation of state aid to be received by the County during 2008.

§ Awarded 20 Tompkins County tourism grants, under four separate programs, which are funded by county Room Occupancy Tax dollars.

§ Approved the recommendation of the County’s Workforce Diversity and Inclusion Committee to include the phrase Inclusion Through Diversity as a tagline on public written communications issued by the County, including departmental letterhead and other communication vehicle. The tagline will be included to place the County’s commitment to diversity and inclusion at the forefront, whenever it communicates with the public.