Highlights of the October 6, 2009 meeting
of the Tompkins County Legislature

2010 Budget Hearing Scheduled
The Legislature, without dissent, scheduled the formal public hearing on the 2010 Tompkins County Tentative Budget and the 2010-2014 Capital Program. The hearing will take place Wednesday, November 4, 2009, beginning at 7:00 p.m. at County Legislative Chambers, 320 N. Tioga Street in Ithaca.  The Legislature will take public comment prior to the budget adoption vote, scheduled November 17.

Also related to the 2010 budget tonight:

  • County Finance Director David Squires reported that information just received from the New York State Retirement System indicates that employee pension cost in 2010 may be $300,000 greater than projected in the tentative budget—revised estimate: $4.8 million.
  • Legislators heard several public comments regarding the budget.  Ithacan Joanne Florino urged funds be restored to preserve emergency outreach services in the Mental Health Department. Citing the high level of taxation compared to property value in the local market, realtor Bonnie Nault asked legislators to forgo a 3% tax levy increase and to not increase mortgage tax as a source of revenue.  Mike Lane, of Dryden, who seeks to return to the Legislature next year, said it’s important to support County advisory boards, as part of  the Planning Department work plan.

Throughout the budget review process, citizens are encouraged to comment on the budget.  They may address the Legislature at the beginning of any Legislature meeting and are encouraged to contact their district’s legislator to provide input.  Comments may be submitted by e-mail through the County’s web site at www.tompkins-co.org (click on “County Budget”) or through the County budget Facebook site at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Ithaca-NY/Tompkins-County-NY/111919856461 (the Facebook site may also be accessed through the County budget web page.)

Contact:  Michael Koplinka-Loehr, Chair of the Legislature 274-5434 or 257-2329; James Dennis, Chair, Budget, Capital and Finance Committee, 387-4058.

Legislature Receives Report on Indigent Representation
The Legislature heard a presentation from the task force charged late last year with exploring alternatives and recommending the most effective way to deliver legal services to county residents who cannot afford legal representation.  In a presentation to the Legislature, attorney Raymond Schlather, who chaired the Task Force on Indigent Representation, noted that, after more than 500 hours of meeting over eight months, his group found that the County’s Assigned Counsel program, contrary to state trends, provides high quality representation at lower cost than would a public defender model or any other combination of services.  The report does find room for improvement in training, accountability and workflow.  To permit opportunity for public review of the report and comment, the Legislature delayed its vote on adoption of the report until its next meeting November 4.  The full report is available for review on the County’s web site at at http://www.tompkins-co.org/legislature/committee/psc/task_force_report.pdf.  The full report, including appendices, is available for review at the County Legislature Office at the County Courthouse, 320 N. Tioga Street, Ithaca.

Contact:  County Administrator Joe Mareane, 274-5551; Martha Robertson, Chair, Public Safety Committee, 272-0584;Legislator Dooley Kiefer, 257-7453.

Legislature Accepts Multi-Agency Homelessness Prevention Grant
The Legislature, by unanimous vote (Legislators Frank Proto and Kathy Luz Herrera were excused) accepted a $2.4 million dollar Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing grant, awarded by the New York State Office of Temporary Disability Assistance and authorized the Department of Social Services to enter into contracts with its partners, the Human Services Coalition, Tompkins Community Action, Catholic Charities of the Southern Tier, and Neighborhood Legal Services to join DSS in collaboratively providing the homeless prevention services supported through the grant.  The program will provide rental  and case management assistance o eligible individuals and families at risk of losing their housing, are behind in their utility payments, or are staying at the Red Cross shelter.  The Legislature also authorized creation of a caseworker and social welfare examiner positions to be funded by the grant.  Legislator Greg Stevenson expressed some concern about adding positions in the current budget environment, even if they are supported by outside funds.

Contact:  Patricia Carey, Commissioner of Social Services; 274-5251; Legislator Will Burbank, Vice Chair, Health and Human Services Committee 272-7555.

Legislature Accepts Homeland Security Grants
The Legislature, without dissent, accepted $220,500 in grants awarded by the New York State Homeland Security Program.  The funds will be use to support emergency response equipment, provide hazardous materials team support, and conduct emergency planning activities.  Equipment to be acquired includes a response vehicle for hazardous materials first responders and a breathing air mobile support unit.

Contact:  Lee Shurtleff, Director of Emergency Response, 257-3888; Martha Robertson, Chair, Public Safety Committee, 272-058.

Legislature Recognizes Janet Steiner
By unanimous vote, the Legislature recognized and expressed official thanks to retired Tompkins County Public Library Director Janet Steiner for her many accomplishments during her 16 years of service.  The resolution, in part, recognizes her leadership in securing $6.5 million to assist in relocating the library to its present Green Street location; expanding acquisitioning, programming and technology; establishing the library as a true center of civic activity; support for rural and community libraries; implementation of up-to-date technology; support of diversity; and effective work with the Board of Trustees to develop a strategic plan for the future.  Legislators comment Steiner for being “both good-humored and professional in her role as cheerleader for our library, fighting valiantly to maintain funding levels for the library in order to provide residents with the high quality and much-needed service they have becomes accustomed to under her direction.”

Contact: Legislator Frank Proto, 277-4875; Legislator Dooley Kiefer, 257-7453.


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