Highlights of the February 5, 2008 meeting
of the
Tompkins County Legislature
Legislature Hears Empire Zone Update
The coordinator of the County’s Empire Zone Program told legislators the Tompkins County Empire Zone, designated by New York State in 2006, has exceeded expectations during its first full year of operation.  The Empire Zone program provides up to ten years of state tax incentives  to qualifying businesses which locate or expand within designated Zone areas.  A business must meet minimum job creation and investment thresholds, then apply for Zone Certification, with  Empire Zone benefits accruing in the form of income tax incentives after the jobs are created and investments made. Businesses apply for Zone Certification based on their projected growth over the next five years, but don’t receive any benefits until they’ve actually created jobs or made capital investments. 

From two businesses certified at the end of 2006, employing an average of 131 people with overall annual capital investments of $2.8 million and earning $98,000 in Empire Zone tax credits, Filiberto reported 34 more businesses certified in 2007, with those businesses projecting 762 new jobs and $91 million in capital investments over the next five years.  She predicted dramatic increases in the number of jobs, capital investments and tax incentives earned for the 2007 tax year, arising from last year’s significant participation growth.

Filiberto told legislators that New York State increased the Zone’s administrative funding from $15,000 to $30,500, after issuing a very high rating to the local operation in its first annual performance review.
Contact:  Heather Filiberto, Empire Zone Coordinator, Tompkins County Area Development, 273-0005; Planning and Public Works Commissioner Ed Marx, Chair, Empire Zones Board of Directors, 274-5560.

TC3 President Presents Annual “State of the College” Report
Tompkins Cortland Community College President Carl Haynes presented the Legislature his annual president’s report, assessing the state of the college as 2008 begins. 

Mr. Haynes said this is an exciting time, for the college with what he called the “transformation” of the campus, with the first phase of the college’s master plan nearly complete.  The institution, he said, is currently preparing for its ten-year Middle States re-accreditation next month, and is engaged in a “very broad institutional conversation regarding where we are and where we are going.”  He said the focus is on six primary areas:  residential campus development; improvement of the freshman year student experience; improving academic advising services; restructuring the college’s administrative structure; examining student transportation issues; and continuing to develop meaningful institutional assessment processes.  Mr. Haynes thanked the Legislature for its support of the college.
Contact:  Michael Koplinka-Loehr, Chair of the Legislature 274-5434 or 257-2329; TC3 President Carl Haynes, 844-8211.

Legislature Establishes 2008 Succession
The Legislature, by a vote of 14-1 (Legislator Tyke Randall voted no), approved an order of succession of County Legislators, to serve in the absence of the Chair and Vice Chair, if those leaders are unavailable.  This year’s order of succession begins with Chair of the Planning, Development and Environmental Quality Committee, followed by the Chair of Health and Human Services, then the Chair of Public Safety.  The plan, recommended by the Government Operations Committee, takes into consideration availability and legislative experience.  Randall advocated the succession designated by individuals, not positions, and ordered on the basis of seniority.
Contact:  Greg Stevenson,Chair, Government Operations Committee, 273-2439.

Processing Change Approved for Small Tax Refunds and Credits

By unanimous vote, the Legislature authorized a change in the way tax refunds or credits of $2,500 or less are processed.  The action authorizes the County Administrator to allow payment of such bills, as recommended by the Department of Assessment, without prior audit by the tax-levying body.  Any refund or credit over $2,500 must still be approved by the Legislature.
Contact:  Greg Stevenson,Chair, Government Operations Committee, 273-2439.