|COUNTY GAINS SALES TAX IN 2002, BUT TREND IS FLAT
Finance Director David Squires reported to the Board that Tompkins
County's sales tax gain for 2002 at the end of the second quarter is $1.4
million more than in 2001. "That's the good news," said Squires but he
added that adjusted figures from New York State show that over the last
3 to 4 years, sales tax collected in the County has increased less than
1 tenth of 1 percent. The additional revenue will help the County through
its current budget difficulties but the long-term sales tax picture offers
little relief. Squires also reported two other pieces of news that ease
the budget crunch slightly. The County has been billed by the state for
$429,000 in retirement funds, $68,000 less than was anticipated; and a
recent issue of 156-day revenue anticipation notes, to pay the County's
share of federal road construction projects, carried interest rates of
1.38 and 1.46 percent, the lowest rates the County has ever had to pay
for borrowing money. Contact: Finance Director David Squires, 274-5545.
WHICHER WARNS BOARD OF HIGH TAX RATE INCREASE
County Administrator Stephen Whicher, who has been reviewing 2003 budget
requests from County departments, told the Board to expect a "substantial"
County property tax increase in the coming year. It will be extremely difficult
to whittle the County's budget enough to prevent anything less than a 20
percent tax hike, Whicher said. Whicher cited the increasing cost of state
mandates, particularly for Medicaid payments, as a prime culprit in throwing
the budget out of balance. In July, departments submitted budget requests
that reflect the consequences of significant cuts to programs. Whicher
will present his recommendations to the Board in late August. The Board
will conduct budget deliberations in September and October and is scheduled
to vote on the 2003 budget on November 17. Contact: County Administrator
Stephen Whicher, 274-5551.
LAYOFFS COST MONEY, TOO
Budget and Capital Committee Chair Peter Penniman cited a memo from
the County's personnel director regarding the cost of layoffs from the
County's workforce that may occur as a result of budget cuts. Penniman
noted that the cost in unemployment and health insurance benefits can range
from 10 to 50 percent of laid-off employees' salaries, for six months.
Contact: Peter Penniman, Chair, Budget & Capital Committee, 387-5897.
TOMPKINS TO TRY FOR EMPIRE ZONE
Tompkins County is preparing to apply for an Empire Zone designation
for various areas totaling two square miles in the City of Ithaca and other
areas of the county. New York State's 62 existing Empire Zones (EZs) are
areas that offer special incentives to encourage economic development,
business investment, and job creation. Potential Empire Zones must have
vacant, buildable land with existing power and water infrastructure, and
the community must have the ability to supply a skilled workforce. Benefits
to qualified businesses include a 10-year exemption from sales tax, as
well as property and wage tax credits. The state reimburses municipalities
for revenue lost through property tax abatements. Tompkins County does
not meet the unemployment requirement for Empire Zone designation, but
officials will ask for a waiver. One basis for the waiver is the large
number of workers who commute to Tompkins from surrounding counties, all
of which have qualified for Empire Zones. A hearing on the application
will be held at 5:30 p.m., August 20 in the County Courthouse. The application
is due to the state by August 30. Contact: Michael Lane, Chair, Economic
and Workforce Development Committee, 844-8440; Martha Armstrong, Tompkins
County Area Development, 273-0005.
COUNTY TO COORDINATE MOVE OF D.O.T. FACILITY
With $3.7 million in committed state funds, Tompkins County will oversee
the relocation of a New York State Department of Transportation maintenance
facility from its present waterfront site in the City of Ithaca to a site
north of the Village of Dryden. Moving the facility will free up prime
waterfront land for a more appropriate commercial or public use, in accordance
with the County's Waterfront Development plan. The County will allocate
a maximum of $50,000 in reimburseable spending in 2002 for consulting and
design services for the new facility. Contact: Barbara Blanchard, Chair,
Communications Capital Committee, 277-1374.
ELECTORATE WILL DECIDE HOW TO FILL BOARD VACANCIES
Voters will have an opportunity to decide whether vacancies on the
Board of Representatives continue to be filled by appointment of municipal
boards, or whether they will be filled by a special election. By unanimous
vote, the Board agreed to bring a measure forward for approval by voters
in the general election November 5. Contact: Charter Review Committee Chairman
Michael Lane, 844-8440.
BOARD APPROVES FUNDING FOR NEW BUSES
Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit (TCAT) will share the local cost
of purchasing four buses and four vans with Tioga Transport. TCAT's cost,
approved by the Board, is $60,000 of a total of $1,056,000 for the vehicles.
The bulk of the cost, $844,800, will be provided by the federal government
and the remainder by New York State. TCAT will buy the vehicles and lease
them to Tioga Transport for use on rural routes in Tompkins and Tioga counties.
The vote was 14 - 1, with Rep. Dooley Kiefer voting no. Contact: Barbara
Blanchard, Chair, Public Works Committee, 277-1374.
COUNTY GOVERNMENT COMMITS TO REDUCTION OF GREENHOUSE GASES
The Board unanimously agreed to set a 20 percent reduction target for
emission of greenhouse gases from County-owned infrastructure and vehicles.
The date to reach the reduction goal is 2008. To accomplish the reduction
of energy use and carbon dioxide emissions, the County will develop a Local
Action Plan. The commitment is part of the County's participation in the
Cities for Climate Protection, a program designed by the International
Council on Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI). Contact: Dooley Kiefer,
Chair, Planning Committee, 257-7453.
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