Highlights from the September 21, 1999 meeting of the
Tompkins County Board of Representatives
CONSULTANTS SUGGEST JAIL COULD DOUBLE IN SIZE
Rep. Tim Joseph, chairman of the Board committee studying the space needs at the County jail, reported that consultants LaBella Associates have suggested that, to meet projections of future inmate populations, as well as deficiencies in the current facility, the jail may need to double in size. Joseph said the committee is digesting this information and that he expects no recommendation on what the County should do until the end of this year or early next year.
COUNTY DIRECTS POLICY FOR INTERNET ASSESSMENT DATA
By a 10 – 4 vote (Reps. Daniel Winch, Frank Proto, George Totman, and Thomas Todd voted no; Rep. Dooley Kiefer was absent), the Board of Representatives agreed to allow the County Assessment Department to publish limited assessment data on the Internet. The Assessment Department, following a Year 2000 revaluation of all taxable properties, will post assessment data on all taxable properties in the County that could include location and street address, type and style of building, square footage, age of structure, number of bathrooms and bedrooms, overall condition, improvements such as garages or finished basements, and the most recent assessed value. The information WILL NOT include property owners’ names or information on exemptions, such as senior citizens or disability exemptions. All users of the data will be required to provide a name, e-mail and postal addresses, and phone number. Complete assessment records – which are available to the public at the County Assessment Office – will be accessible on the Internet only to credentialled professionals in appropriate fields, such as real estate or property appraisal. By placing some restrictions on the electronic version of the data, County officials hope to avoid any improper use of the information.
DATE SET FOR PUBLIC HEARING ON TOMPKINS COUNTY 2000 BUDGET
The Board scheduled the public hearing on the 2000 County budget for 7 pm, November 9, in the Board Chambers at the County Courthouse, 320 North Tioga Street. At that time, any member of the public may address the Board in regard to the proposed budget, which is expected to be complete by October 21. Copies of the proposed budget will be available to the public in late October or early November. The vote on the final budget will take place a week after the hearing at the regular Board meeting, starting at 5:30 p.m. on November 16.
STATE COMPTROLLER ISSUES ADVICE TO COUNTIES ON TOBACCO FUNDS
County Administrator Richard Erb told the Board he has received an advisory from New York State Comptroller Carl McCall that sheds more light on the tobacco settlement money counties and the City of New York are slated to start receiving next year. Tompkins County is reportedly in line for almost $1 million in 2000, and increasing amounts in following years. Previous estimates have indicated the County could receive almost $2 million annually by 2018. McCall’s advisory, however, explains that amount of the settlement money could vary, according to several factors: the settlement is based on tobacco consumption, which could decline; tobacco companies could go bankrupt; other entities, such as the federal Medicare program or individuals, could sue for a share of the money. McCall also outlined possible ways counties could handle the influx of funds, from using it immediately to placing it in a trust fund. Counties, including Tompkins, have been approached by financiers to consider securitizing tobacco settlement funds, that is, selling future earnings for a lump sum now. McCall’s report outlines the pros and cons of various strategies for handling the money. Tompkins County legislators have discussed possible uses for the expected tobacco money but have made no decision on how it would be allocated. The funds were considered too "iffy" to be included in the 2000 budget.