February 18, 1999
Scott B. Heyman Conference Room
Present: T. Joseph, P. Penniman, M. Koplinka-Loehr, N. Schuler, F. Proto, T. Todd, S. Davis
Staff: R. Erb, K. West, W. Skinner, D. Squires, M. Pottorff
Guests: Theresa Robinson, Town of Groton Supervisor
Mr. Joseph called the meeting to order at 9:18 a.m.
Changes to the agenda
The resolution entitled Appropriation from Contingent Fund – Library Steps – Buildings and Grounds was added to the agenda.
Item No. 6 – Discussion and guest speaker, Marge Dill, was withdrawn and will be placed on the next agenda.
Item No. 7 – Discussion and guest speaker, Jennifer Green, was withdrawn and will be placed on the next agenda.
Mr. Joseph had no report.
County Administrator’s Report
Mr. Erb had no report.
Finance Director’s Report
Mr. Squires distributed a Contingent Fund Report dated February 18, 1999. He alerted the Committee that the first month’s sales tax that came in was less than last year’s by $200,000. He said he hopes this is related to a cash flow problem at the State level. He said he is trying to close out 1998 but does not yet have all the revenue information from departments.
There was a brief discussion about Southern Tier East Regional Planning Development Board. Mr. Proto asked to receive a spreadsheet on what the County’s financial information with that entity is. Mr. Joseph said this request should be made the Planning, Intergovernmental Relations and Education Committee. Mr. Proto and Mrs. Schuler will follow-up on this.
Report from the Deputy County Administrator
Ms. West had no report.
WHEREAS, consulting services are needed to complete priority tasks within specific phases of the Y2K program as defined by Information Technology Services, and
RESOLVED, on recommendation of the Governmental Operations and Budget & Quality Planning Committees that $25,000 be appropriated from the Contingent Fund to the Information Technology Services professional services account.
MOVED by Mrs. Schuler, seconded by Mr. Proto.
Mr. Erb said the condition of the steps at the Public Library have deteriorated to the point that the steps are a liability and have subsequently been closed. The options considered by the Facilities and Operations Committee included: paying $45,800 to replace the steps with granite as originally designed, paying $40,000 to replace them with concrete, paying $13,930 to remove all granite and reset treads only, or paying $13,500 to remove all granite and replace tread with epoxy coated lumber. Mr. Proto stressed that this is a public building and will continue to be used for at least the next 18 months. Mr. Proto suggested not doing anything with the steps at this time, or repairing only half of the steps at this time. Mr. Penniman referred to the staff concerns, and feels the Board should act quickly on this. He asked what issues were raised during discussion on this issue by the Facilities and Infrastructure Committee.
Mrs. Schuler was present during discussion of this by the Facilities and Infrastructure Committee, and said there was a feeling amongst some members of that Committee that since the County is spending $6.4 million for a new Library, they did not want to spend any additional money.
Mr. Joseph said he thinks the new owner of the building will remove the steps and have steps inside the building. He feels the Board should pay the least cost possible to repair the steps and get by until the Library moves in 18 months.
WHEREAS, repairs during the period of transition between use of the Library as it currently exists and the future use as yet to be determined should be modest but adequate to meet the minimum needs of the Library operation, and
WHEREAS, the Library will remain in-use and open to the public until relocation to their new facility in the year 2000, now therefore be it
RESOLVED, on recommendation of the Facilities & Infrastructure and Budget & Quality Planning Committees, That funds be appropriated to repair the Library steps as expeditiously as possible in an amount not to exceed $13,500, and
RESOLVED, further, That the Director of Finance is hereby directed to make the following budget appropriation:
FROM: A1990.54400 Contingent Fund $ 13,500
TO: A1620.54470 Building Repairs $ 13,500
SEQR ACTION: TYPE II - 20
Discussion Early Retirement
Mr. Joseph said four to five years ago the State gave counties the option of early retirement, and that most people retiring do so under the early retirement plan and the result is that it has cost the County money. Mr. Joseph reviewed the history of the early retirement incentive program. The State used to say you had to eliminate a position when someone was taking early retirement and that the County had to demonstrate savings in the salary over the course of two years. When looking at those savings, it was found that departments were eliminating the position; however, had created someone to do the job under another title. Mr. Joseph said the County now says that after the contribution is made to the State Retirement Fund. The Department has to return half the position’s salary over the course of two years to the General Fund and they don’t have to eliminate the position. Mr. Erb questioned why fringe monies are not required to be returned as well.
Mr. Joseph said after thought and consideration, he feels departments should be able to improve their efficiency without a having a requirement to return money to the County. There may be some instances when there are efficiencies that don't result in dollar savings. He suggested changing the policy to say if a department can retire someone without costing the County any additional costs, this is acceptable, and if a net savings is produced it should be returned it to the County. He said by doing this we will still have given departments a tool to operate more efficiently.
Ms. Davis does not want early retirement to be used as a means for helping a department remove a person from a position when they are not doing their job. She also does not feel employee performance evaluations are being used to the fullest means. She wants to promote excellence among County employees and does not want to in any way promote longevity as a means of excellence.
Ms. West said less than 20 people have taken early retirement since it was first adopted.
Mr. Penniman agreed that if a department is being provided with a tool to reorganize and become more efficient, there should not be a requirement to return savings to the County.
A concern was raised that only the large departments would be able to take advantage of early retirement.
Mr. Joseph said the County still has the option of not adopting early
The figures for retirement are as follows:
1996 - 10 employees
1997 - 0 employees
Mrs. Schuler asked what other counties are doing. Mr. Erb said he would check with NYSAC.
Discussion - Joint Budget and Quality Planning Committee and Department Head Meeting
It was stated that the purpose of the February 24 meeting is to have an interactive discussion with department heads on the County’s budget process. Mr. Proto suggested inviting all Board members. Mr. Joseph said he would like to begin by asking department heads their reaction to the budget process. Ms. West will prepare a bulleted list to follow.
Mr. Koplinka-Loehr suggested including in the list: prioritization and is there consistency in the budget process; and what is the usefulness of the program committee in the full budget process.
Ms. Davis said she thinks a lot of confusion came from the Board and departments not communicating well in the past and views this meeting as a way to improve communication. She believes that the quality of life in Tompkins County is at the heart of what everyone is doing, and since the budget process is now solid she wants to push every opportunity available to make sure everyone knows and understands this.
Mr. Proto asked what outcome is expected of this meeting. Mr. Joseph said in the past there has been a lot of departmental input into the budget process, and does not think there will ever be a process that makes both happy because the Board and departments each have different goals.
Ms. West said some of the concerns that will be raised include the process and the final cuts that were made by the Budget and Personnel Committee (full Board), and the length of time that meetings took through the month of October.
Mr. Joseph said departments think the rationale process happens at only the program committees. He said this is a perception that needs to be addressed. In the program committee requests are usually approved. In the Budget Committee the questions are different and departments need to understand that a different process takes place at that level.
Mr. Proto said at some point the County needs to work with municipal governments who receive money from the County on how the County affects their budgets.
The meeting adjourned at 11:22 a.m.