Highlights from the September 5 meeting of the
Tompkins County Board of Representatives
BOARD REJECTS SECURITIZATION – BUT MAY VOTE AGAIN
So far, it appears that Tompkins County will wait for its share of tobacco settlement money to arrive in annual payments, instead of leveraging an up-front sum. By a vote of 6–6 (three of the 15 Board members were absent), the Board of Representatives rejected the concept of securitization, that is, selling tax-free bonds backed by future tobacco payments. A majority of at least 8 votes is needed to approve securitization.
A proposal to securitize half of the annual payments, netting $7.9 million up front, was introduced by Barbara Blanchard. It failed 6-6. A resolution to set up a local corporation to handle securitized funds failed 7–5.
With three Board members – Charles Evans, Stuart Stein, and Daniel Winch – absent, it was noted that a re-vote could have different results. The Board’s consensus was that it would reconsider the resolutions at its next meeting if it appeared that at least 8 members would vote yes.
The County is in line to receive $1.3 – $2 million annually from the tobacco industry as re-payment for Medicaid costs associated with tobacco use. The payments are subject to vagaries of the domestic cigarette market, inflation, the effects of further lawsuits against the tobacco companies, and other factors. All Board members who spoke to the issue agreed that the deciding factor is the amount of risk the legislators are willing to take. Michael Lane said he had faith in the vigor of the tobacco companies; Peter Penniman disagreed, stating that partial securitization would be a good hedge against possible disastrous failures in the tobacco industry.
To date, Tompkins County has received three tobacco settlement installments, totaling $1.7 million. The first payment of $521,000 was added to the 2000 operating budget. The remainder is unallocated, but County Administrator Richard Erb has recommended that it be folded into the general revenues for 2001. Another $1.6 – $1.8 million is expected in 2002.
Those voting against securitizing half of the payments were Susanne Davis, Tim Joseph, Dooley Kiefer, Michael Koplinka-Loehr, Michael Lane, and Nancy Schuler. Yes votes were cast by Barbara Blanchard, Barbara Mink, Peter Penniman, Frank Proto, Thomas Todd, and George Totman. The vote against setting up the local development corporation was the same, except Mink voted no.
IN OTHER ACTION
The Board unanimously (12-0; Reps. Evans, Stein, and Winch were absent) approved the creation of a new casework assistant position at the Department of Social Services as part of a program to train human services workers to recognize signs of elder abuse. In the first year, the program is 100 percent funded by a grant administered by the New York State Office of Family and Children’s Services. It is 75 percent grant-funded in the second year; 50 percent in the third year.
The Board gave unanimous (12-0; Reps. Evans, Stein, and Winch were absent) approval to the creation of a Drug Treatment Court case manager in the Department of Social Services (DSS), to be funded with existing DSS funds and criminal justice grant monies.
The Board unanimously (12-0; Reps. Evans, Stein, and Winch were absent) approved a contingent fund appropriation of $88,321 to cover payroll costs of replacing Sheriff’s Office workers who are out on disability leave.
By a 10-2 vote (Reps. Tim Joseph and Dooley Kiefer voted no; Reps. Evans, Stein, and Winch were absent), the Board approved an increase from 35 hours to 40 hours a week for five Probation Department positions, to meet increased workload and a decrease in number of staff persons. No new funding is required in 2000
The Board unanimously (12-0; Reps. Evans, Stein and Winch were absent) approved the award of a bid for replacement of the Lake Street Bridge over Trumansburg Creek to Silverline Construction, Inc. of Burdett, NY. The bid was $497,000; the County’s share of the cost is $307,478.