Highlights of the June 4, 2002 meeting of the
Tompkins County Board of Representatives
The Board took several actions that point toward a shrinking County budget:

Twenty percent reduction required in local spending targets
The Board voted 13-1 (Rep. Dooley Kiefer voted no; Rep Michael Lane was absent) to direct departments and programs that are funded with local money – as opposed to state or federal aid – to reduce their 2003 budgets by 20 percent. This “setting of fiscal targets” is an annual activity that informs County departments and County-funded agencies of how to design their proposed budgets. Last year, the fiscal targets were reduced by 2 percent. In 2000, the targets were allowed no increase. Any wished-for increases in department or agency budgets must be shown as “over-target requests,” which the Board examines one- by-one in its budget deliberations. An amendment for a 15 percent reduction was offered by Kiefer, who cast the only yes vote. In a related resolution, the Board unanimously approved a directive to the County Administrator to identify $1 million in savings in the current County budget and to work with departments to achieve the savings. 

Increase in cost of benefits adds to squeeze on budget
The Board added a percentage point to its fringe benefits pool, to reflect an added cost of over $900,000. In 2002, an amount equal to 26 percent of the $28.6 million County payroll was allocated for fringe benefits. An increased contribution to the New York State retirement fund has added $443,148 to the County’s costs. The County’s health insurance fees have also increased by at least 12 percent, adding $363,955 to the fringe benefit costs. County departments are being asked to absorb the increased costs. 

Unspent funds allowed for current year’s spending
The Board also approved use of $959,000 in unspent money, known as “rollover,” from previous years’ budgets to fill various departments’ funding requests. A total of $2.2 million in rollover was available.

County protests Medicaid cost burden
The Board unanimously approved a resolution urging the state to take over the cost of providing Medicaid services to County residents. Medicaid costs account for 38 percent of the County’s local spending. Only New York State and California require counties to pay for Medicaid costs.
Contacts: Board Chair Tim Joseph, 277-2519; Budget Committee Chair Peter Penniman, 387-5897; County Administrator Stephen Whicher, 274-5551.

Due to a transition in airport security at the Ithaca-Tompkins Regional Airport to the Sheriff’s Office, three new deputy positions were created by unanimous resolution. The federal Transportation Security Administration (TSA) ruled in May that National Guard security be removed from airports and that responsibility for security be shifted to the local level. The cost of hiring the deputies was set at $370,000. The federal government is expected to reimburse the County. 

In the same time period, the state Commission of Corrections, which oversees local jails, has mandated a staffing level for the Tompkins County jail that requires the hiring of five new corrections officers. In a letter dated May 6, the Commission stated its requirement that staffing be increased from 35 to 40 full time equivalent positions. The cost to the County of the corrections positions is $263,685, a permanent increase to the Sheriff’s budget. Three Board members voted against the resolution as a protest against the state’s mandate. Contacts: Nancy Schuler, Chair, Public Safety Committee, 272-7298; Sheriff Peter Meskill, 257-1345.

By unanimous vote, the Board adopted a set of development and preservation principles that have grown out of the Vital Communities public outreach program. The interim principles state that the County supports future development that promotes strong neighborhoods, protects important natural resources, and enhances the local community. Contacts: Dooley Kiefer, Chair, Planning Committee, 257-7453; Planning Commissioner Ed Marx, 274-5560.

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