Highlights of the December 16, 2008 meeting
of the
Tompkins County Legislature
Administration Gauging Potential Impact of Governor’s Proposed Budget
County Administrator Joe Mareane told Legislators that County Administration and the County’s Department Heads are beginning to assess how Governor David Paterson’s 2009-10 New York State budget, announced earlier today, would impact Tompkins County.  The budget now projects a $13.7 billion dollar deficit, proposing to close the gap through $9.5 billion in cuts and the remainder in revenue increases.

Although it is not yet possible to put a dollar sign on specific cuts, Administrator Mareane cautioned that it appears that most areas where the County receives aid will be affected, some more than others, including

·   Welfare administration (including moving more cost items to a block grant without a corresponding increase in funding and eliminating the Community Optional Preventive Services (COPS) program);
·   Highway maintenance aid;
·   Youth services;
·   Probation and other criminal justice programs;
·   A possible reduction in operating aid to TC3 that would begin this year could extend into 2009.

Some proposals that might benefit the County, he added, include revision of the cost sharing formula for Preschool special education.  He noted that the Governor’s proposal does not back away from the existing Medicaid cap or change the cost sharing formula for Temporary Assistance programs.  Over the next several days, staff will be reviewing the details of the Governor’s proposal and preparing a detailed impact assessment to guide the County’s response.

The administrator cautioned that release of the Governor’s proposal is only the beginning.  “It’s important to remember that this just the first pitch of what will be at least a nine inning game,” he stated.  Lots will change between now and the final budget.”
Contact:  County Administrator Joe Mareane, 274-5551.

Legislature Amends Comprehensive Plan to Address Energy Issues
The Legislature, by a vote of 9-4, approved an amendment to the County’s Comprehensive Plan to address the issue of energy and greenhouse gas emissions. (Legislators Frank Proto, Mike Sigler, Mike Hattery and Kathy Luz Herrera voted no; Legislators Greg Stevenson and Tyke Randall were absent.)  The amendment sets in motion a multi-faceted plan for the Tompkins County community to reduce energy demand, improve energy efficiency, make the transition to renewable sources of energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  Its goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the county by at least 2 percent of the 2008 level for each of the next 40 years, achieving at least an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050.  

An amendment, advanced by Legislator Dooley Kiefer and approved by an 8-5 vote, modified the plan’s wording to include the term “Peak Oil”  within the element, responding to suggestions advanced by a committee of the county’s Environmental Management Council.  Legislator Herrera noted her opposition stemmed only from the last-minute wording change.  Legislators Hattery and Sigler said they do not support what they maintain is centralized planning at the county level, which the Comprehensive Plan represents.  And Legislator Sigler suggested that, while its goals are admirable, the element fails to offer significant real solutions unless means are developed to sequester carbon from the county’s coal-fired electric generating plant in a cost-effective way.

The amendment can be found at the County’s web site at  http://www.tompkins-co.org/planning/compplan/index.htm.
Contact:  Planning and Public Works Commissioner Ed Marx, 274-5560; Martha Robertson, Chair, Planning , Development, and Environmental Quality Committee, 272-0584; Legislator Mike Sigler, 339-7978.

County Accepts Federal “Safe Haven” Grant
The Legislature, without dissent, authorized the Department of Social Services to accept a $150,000 Violence Against Women Act development grant awarded by the United States Department of Justice to support planning toward a local “safe haven” facility.   The facility, to be developed in collaboration with community partners, will provide a safe place for children’s visitations with non-custodial parents.

“The Department of Social Services is honored to accept this grant,” says Commissioner of Social Services Patricia Carey.  “Kids need their parents, and children of families troubled by domestic violence need a safe place to visit with their non-custodial parent, a place where the two parents will have no opportunity to come into contact and engage in conflict with one another.  These Federal funds make it possible to begin working with our community partners to plan for the creation and operation of such a resource here in Tompkins County.”

Health and Human Services Committee Chair Frank Proto noted that the grant away demonstrates the importance of continuing to work to initiate new programs such as this, despite State budget challenges. Funding from the planning grant will be awarded over the next two years.
Contact:  Patricia Carey, Commissioner of Social Services, 274-525: Frank Proto, Chair, Health and Human Services Committee, 277-4875.

Among other actions, the Legislature
  • Authorized a lease agreement between the County and the Tompkins County Soil and Water Conservation District.  The action releases the District to enter into a new lease arrangement with the County for office space more affordable than its current location shared with the National Resources Conservation.  Funding to support the new lease is included in the 2009 County budget
  • Accepted a $10,000 New York State legislative initiatives grant for the Personal Emergency Response System (PERS) program administered by the County Office for the Aging, which will support purchase of additional emergency response units for frail seniors and persons with disabilities.
  • Approved a number of year-end resolutions, including implementation of departmental fees, memberships and position changes, as included in the 2009 County budget.