Highlights of the September 17, 2002 meeting of the
Tompkins County Board of Representatives
The Board of Representatives unanimously (14-0; Rep. Daniel Winch was absent) urged the state legislature to provide fiscal relief to counties by shifting some of the tax burden to the state’s richer residents. Tompkins and many other counties in New York State are experiencing budget difficulties as a result of a shift of expenses from the state to the local level. The Board’s resolution proposes the imposition of a higher personal income tax on individuals who earn more than $100,000 annually. The resolution, which was crafted by Budget Committee Chairman Peter Penniman, reads in part: “Given the burden of state mandates, counties are being forced to choose between large tax increases and severe reductions in many other basic services that our citizens have come to expect and require in order to maintain their quality of life.” The resolution further states that additional revenue gained from the state income tax should be used to increase the state’s reimbursements to counties for mandated programs. Board Chair Tim Joseph noted that the resolution asks for reform of a tax structure that is unfair, and that he hopes this measure is the first of many in what he termed “a tax revolt.” Contact: Peter Penniman, Chair, Budget & Capital Committee, 387-3928, 387-5897; Tim Joseph, Chair of the Board, 277-2519. 

The Board set a date for a hearing and vote on a 30-cent-per-month surcharge on wireless phone usage. At its next regular meeting, October 1, the Board is expected to approve the charge, which will be added to cellular and wireless phone bills starting January 2, 2003. The revenue from the surcharge, which has been authorized by New York State, will be used to support the County’s 911 emergency dispatch system. Contact: Nancy Schuler, Chair, Public Safety Committee, 272-7298; Lee Shurtleff, Director of Emergency Response, 257-3888.

The Board voted 10-4 (Reps. Dooley Keifer, Michael Lane, Frank Proto, and Nancy Schuler voted no; Rep. Daniel Winch was absent) to sell to Cornell University a long-discussed piece of land on White Church Road in Caroline. The County acquired the land, known as “Caroline Pinnacles,” through tax foreclosure in 1998. It was withdrawn from that year’s tax auction so that it could be assessed for unique natural features. It appeared that the parcel contained rare or scarce plant species, but subsequent questions arose about whether the rare plants were actually located within the parcel’s boundaries. One acre of the land that included a house was separated and sold at auction in 2000. The remaining parcel was placed on the list for auction in 2002 but was withdrawn pending a survey to determine the exact acreage. For cost reasons, the survey was not conducted. In the meantime, Cornell agreed to buy the land, which has a minimum of 10 and a maximum of 28 acres, for $5,000. The County agreed to sell the land with the stipulation that it will be protected as a natural area and that no cellular tower or other structure will be placed there for at least 25 years. Contact: Michael Koplinka-Loehr, Chair, Government Operations Committee, 257-2329, 255-6668; Finance Director David Squires, 274-5545.

Judy Tynyk (pronounced TIN-ick), Tompkins County’s longtime Weights and Measures Director, is retiring from full-time service to the community. Tynyk, whose varied job includes checking the accuracy of measuring and weighing devices such as gasoline pumps and commercial scales, was one of the first women in New York State to be hired as a Weights and Measures Director. Her dedication to consumer protection will continue in a post-retirement transition period, during which Tynyk will work part-time for the County from a new location in the Facilities building on Bostwick Road. Contact: Michael Koplinka-Loehr, Chair, Government Operations Committee, 257-2329, 255-6668; Judy Tynyk, Weights & Measures Director, 274-5523.

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