Highlights of the June 2, 2009 meeting
of the Tompkins County Legislature

Legislature Establishes 2010 Budget Guidelines
The Legislature established 2010 budget guidelines which call for departments and agencies to cut spending by 6.25%, as an initial step in the 2010 County budget process. The vote was 11-4, with Legislators Martha Robertson, Dooley Kiefer, Pam Mackesey and Will Burbank voting no. After 45 minutes of thoughtful discussion, the Legislature accepted the recommendation of County Administrator Joe Mareane and its budget committee. The administrator has indicated that the 6.25% reduction is needed to achieve the $2.4 million reduction in discretionary spending needed to balance the budget and meet the Legislature’s 3% tax levy increase goal. The fiscal target is the maximum amount of general revenue spending authority that a department may request without initiating an over-target request as part of the budget process.

The guidelines call for fiscal targets to be reduced by 6.25% from the level approved as part of the 2009 adopted budget. The fiscal targets apply to County departments, not-for-profit agencies, and county municipalities and agencies reimbursed under the Sales Tax Agreement with the City of Ithaca. The targets do not include one-time funding, re-appropriations or adjustments from previous years. The action also grants the County Administrator full authority of the Legislature to adjust department targets, as needed, to achieve the Legislature’s 3% tax levy increase goal and states that the Administrator will consult with department heads and division managers before any needed target reduction.

While all were in agreement that this will be a very difficult budget year with many tough choices to be made, some argued that the 6.25% reduction is too stringent—that such an approach is unrealistic, and is unlikely to ultimately be supported by the Legislature and community after putting departments through an agonizing process. Legislator Martha Robertson unsuccessfully sought to reduce the fiscal target to 5.25% (which would have reduced the required cut to about $2 million). Her proposed amendment failed by a vote of 2-13, with Robertson and Legislator Dooley Kiefer voting in favor. Robertson, in part, maintained that prior decisions—on 2009 management salaries and a likely level of community college support—have already affected the 2010 budget environment, and the lower target would be more fair for departments and agencies. Both Legislators Kiefer and Pam Mackesey expressed reservations about the Legislature’s 3% levy goal. Budget Committee Chair Jim Dennis and Legislature Chair Mike Koplinka-Loehr both noted that this element is only the beginning, allowing departments assess their programs as a basis for further discussion with County Administration to build a proposed budget. Dennis cautioned, “This is not our tough choice today. Our tough choice day will come when departments finish their collaboration and we have a budget to work with.” Legislator Mike Sigler challenged the idea that the 6.25% reduction target is not realistic. “By doing this, we will get closer to what we need to do in the future,” he said. Characterizing the budget as the Legislature’s top responsibility, he added, “I would rather try and fail than not try at all.”
Contact: County Administrator Joe Mareane, 274-5551; James Dennis, Chair, Budget, Capital and Finance Committee, 387-4058; Legislator Dooley Kiefer, 257-7453; Legislator Martha Robertson, 272-0584.

Public Hearing Scheduled on TC3 Budget
The Legislature, by unanimous vote, authorized a public hearing on Tompkins Cortland Community College (TC3) proposed 2009-2010 budget. The hearing will be held June 16, 2009 at 5:30 p.m. at Legislature Chambers at the Tompkins County Courthouse, 320 N. Tioga Street, Ithaca. Each year, the TC3 budget must be approved by Tompkins and Cortland County legislatures, as legislative bodies for its sponsoring counties.
Contact: Legislature Office, 274-5434.

Six Lansing Students Recognized as Distinguished Youth
Six members of Lansing High School’s Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) are this month’s Tompkins County Distinguished Youth. Jessica Uhrovcik, Susan Lin, Rebekah Leo, Travis Smith, Kari Fenner, Alyssa Wasanko, and Chris Sherman were nominated by SADD advisor Kevin Wyszkowski for their participation in a mock car crash, presented to high school students May 14th, in which the driver was texting on her phone. In a nomination letter Wyszkowski stated, “The end result of this simple act of texting while driving ended in the death of two students, several injuries, and the lives of many people altered forever. He praised the students for their efforts which made the mock crash seem “all too realistic” and predicted the event would have a lasting impression on those who watched it, which will hopefully save lives in the future. 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.

Sheriff’s Office Corrections Division Receives Certificate of Jail Accreditation
New York State Sheriff’s Association Executive Director Peter Kehoe presented Sheriff Peter Meskill a certificate of accreditation for the Tompkins County Jail. Mr. Kehoe called accreditation a significant achievement met by only a fraction of the state’s 62 counties, noting that the corrections division satisfied a very stringent set of numerous standards. Sheriff Meskill thanked every member of the corrections division for all that they do every day, which made accrediation possible.
Contact: Sheriff Peter Meskill, 257-1345.

Among other actions, the Legislature

- Took two actions related to the reconstruction of Warren Road between Route 13 and Asbury Road in Lansing. The firm of F. Rizzo Construction, Inc. of Auburn was awarded the construction contract, for its bid of just over $4.5 million, opened May 28. The Warren Road project will be supported through $5.3 million in federal stimulus funding as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Legislators also authorized a supplemental agreement with Bergmann Associates of Rochester for construction inspection services for the project, at a cost not to exceed $440,210.

- Approved a supplemental agreement with Fisher Associates of Rochester for design and righ-of-way services related to the Hanshaw Road Reconstruction project, at a cost not to exceed $365,000.

- Awarded the firm Barton & Loguidice, PC of Syracuse the contract for painting of Tompkins County bridges, for an amount not to exceed $31,000. With a federal share of 80%, local cost will be $6,200.

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