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Legislators acting as an Expanded Budget Committee have begun to recommend changes to County Administrator Joe Mareane's Recommended Budget delivered to them last month, marking the start of a new phase of the County's 2018 budget process.

At their initial voting meeting October 10, Legislators recommended the following changes to the budget. Those recommendations may be reconsidered at later expanded committee meetings and will require approval by the full Legislature to become final.

The committee recommended nine spending items related to the Jail population—eight of them related to recommendations of the CGR Jail Population Study report, many approved by unanimous votes.

  • CONTINGENT FUNDING – JAIL BOARD-OUTS: By a vote of 13-0, $300,000 in multi-year funding (first year of three years) was approved to be set aside in the Contingent Fund to cover anticipated cost of 2018 jail board-outs. The New York State Commission of Correction has indicated it will revoke the Jail's long-standing 18-bed variance at the beginning of 2018.
  • DISTRICT ATTORNEY: By a 13-0 vote, $97,513 in target funding was approved to support one new criminal court Assistant District Attorney position. Two new ADA positions had been requested by District Attorney Matt Van Houten.
  • CRIMINAL JUSTICE COORDINATOR: Legislators, by a vote of 13-0, approved $107,235 in multi-year funding (first of three years) for a Criminal Justice Coordinator position in County Administration. An 18-month position had been recommended in the CGR report. A proposed amendment to reduce the term to two years failed by a 5-8 margin.
  • SEQUENTIAL INTERCEPT MAPPING PROJECT: $22,000 in one-time contingent funding was approved to underwrite a consultant-assisted program to assess and develop a plan to coordinate Reentry services. The item was approved by a split vote of 8-5.
  • EXPANDED MENTAL HEALTH STAFF FOR JAIL SERVICES: By a 12-1 vote, $171,381 was approved to support new Caseworker and Psychiatric Social Worker positions in the Department of Mental Health, focused on Jail services.
  • ADVISOR FOR ENDEAVOR HOUSE: $6,000 in one time funding was approved, as part of the OAR (Opportunities, Alternatives, and Resources) budget to fund a part-time residential advisor for OAR's new Endeavor House transitional housing program for residents returning to the community from Tompkins County Jail. Approval came by a 13-0 vote.
  • COLLEGE INITIATIVE UPSTATE: By a 13-0 vote, $84,000 in continued one-year one-time funding was approved to support staff expense for OAR's College Initiative Upstate program. Target funding had been requested. Legislators indicated they would like to see additional tracking and data to measure program activity and effectiveness.
  • SENIOR PROBATION OFFICER: $107,657 was approved, by a 13-0 vote, to support a new Senior Probation Officer position in the Department of Probation and Community Justice, to focus on Drug Court and electronic monitoring..
  • JAIL NURSE: $88.647 was approved to support a second Nurse position at the Tompkins County Jail. Legislature Chair Michael Lane questioned how the position was an alternatives-to-incarceration program, and Legislator Leslyn McBean-Clairborne said she was "struggling" over it, since she would rather see treatment services happen outside the jail. Public Safety and Jail Study Committee Chair Rich John said he doesn't know what direct impact the position will have on jail population but that, considering the positive impact of nursing services for inmates, the increase from one to two jail nurses appears necessary. The expenditure was approved 13-0.

Other approved budget amendments, not related to the Jail:

COUNTY ADMINISTRATION: By a 13-0 vote, Legislators set aside $142,777 in the Contingent Fund to support potential organizational changes in County Administration—additional staffing, such as a second Deputy County Administrator's position in County Administration, if desired by the next County Administrator.

PLANNING AND SUSTAINABILITY: - By a 13-0 vote, $2,750 in target funding was approved to support the ongoing stream monitoring program conducted by the Community Science Institute.

- By a 12-1 vote, $5,000 in one-time funding was approved for continuing the Unique Natural Areas inventory conducted by the County's Environmental Management Council.

TOMPKINS COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY: By a vote of 11-2, $43,524 was approved to fund a Youth Services Librarian position at the 20-hour per week level. A proposed amendment to approve the position at the requested 30-hour per week level ($65,286) failed by a 5-8 margin.

PARKS PLANNING: $10,000 in one-time funding was set aside in the Contingent Fund to support ongoing parks planning (Stewart Park, etc.) with the City of Ithaca.

OFFICE FOR THE AGING: $20,000 was in target funding was set aside in the Contingent Fund to increase hourly rates for home care subcontractors. Director Lisa Holmes told Legislators this amount would be a 5% increase in rates, but cautioned that due to a blended rate structure, there would be no guarantee that the money would go to wages of home care workers, who typically do not earn the living wage. A change from target to Contingent funding was approved 9-4, the final Contingent Fund appropriation approved by a 13-0 vote.

YOUTH SERVICES: By a vote of 12-1, $13,117 was approved to provide a 2% Cost-of-Living increase to Youth Services-contracted agencies, as was provided in the Administrator's budget to agencies contracting directly to the County.

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY SERVICES: By a vote of 13-0, $8,000 was approved to restore travel and training funding to the ITS department, which had been cut by the department to balance its budget.

HUMAN SERVICES COALITION AGENCIES – LawNY: By a vote of 11-2, $25,000 in one-year, one-time funding was approved for to support 50% of salary and benefit costs for a full-time staff attorney at LawNY, serving low-income residents with legal barriers to employment and replacing lost federal funds. Budget chair Jim Dennis expressed some concern that it was "an incredibly slippery slope" if the County tries to fix federal programs that go away. Initially proposed as two-year funding, with some discussion of making it target, the expenditure was ultimately approved as one-year funding.

Potential Tax Impact of Recommendations to Date

In its first actions, the committee approved contingent funding appropriations of $695,366 and increased the use of reserves by $559,235. Although increases in target funding have been approved, there is no effect to date on the tax levy, since all have been drawn down from the $1.3 million Contingent Fund allocation included in the County Administrator's recommended budget to support policy budgeting decisions to be made by the Legislature. The recommended tax levy increase remains at 2.4%; the tax rate at $6.58; and the increase in the County tax bill for the owner of a median-valued $178,000 home at $12.08.

The Expanded Budget Committee will next convene Thursday, October 12, to consider further potential recommended amendments to the Administrator's budget. All Expanded Budget sessions begin at 5:30 p.m., and are held at Legislature Chambers in the Governor Daniel D. Tompkins Building, 121 E. Court Street (Second Floor), Ithaca.

The 2018 Recommended Budget, with schedules and other budget-related information, is posted at the budget page of the County web site.

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