Budget and Fiscal Policy Committee
March 16, 2000
9 a.m.
Scott B. Heyman Conference Room

Present: T. Joseph, Chairman; P. Penniman; T. Todd; F. Proto (arrived at 9:12 a.m.); S. Davis (arrived at 9:37 a.m.)

Staff: R. Erb, County Administrator; K. West, Deputy County Administrator; D. Squires, Finance Director; P. Meskill, Sheriff; J. Kazda, Senior Civil Engineer
 
 

Called to Order

The meeting was called to order at 9:00 a.m.

Changes to Agenda

There were no changes made to the agenda.

Approval of Minutes

It was MOVED by Mr. Todd, seconded by Mr. Penniman, and unanimously adopted by voice vote by members present, to approve the minutes of the March 2, 2000 meeting as corrected with the following sentence added to page 5, second paragraph:

Ms. West clarified that once certification of where the money came from was made by the Board, the analysis of where the money is being spent would be let go.

Report by the County Administrator

Mr. Joseph commented that Mr. Erb distributed the report on tobacco to all Board members. Included in that report is information about securitization. Mr. Joseph said he will be bringing a resolution forth for the Committee to consider as soon as the details are received from the New York State Association of Counties. Mr. Joseph explained why he is not supportive of securitization. He feels that the County would receive less money than what the funds are worth. It was noted that the revenues from the tobacco companies are suppose to be in perpetuity. The securitizations, so far, have been for a limited time.

Mr. Erb reported that he will be meeting with two firms, Albany Corporation and Payne Weber, next week concerning securitization. He stated that if the Committee wished, the firms would be willing to attend a meeting. He also reported that Representative Lane had asked if trust funds were allowed and Mr. Erb said that according to New York State Association of Counties they are. He said if the County were to securitize, one option is to take a lump sum immediately and establish a trust fund and then spend the interest.

Mr. Erb again quoted from an economic professor at Ithaca College, Gilligan Kacyper, the current figures indicate there was a 12 percent increase in retail sales from November and December 1999 over November and December 1998. It was the first month ever with more than $100,000,000 in retail sales with December being $126,000,000. Mr. Joseph explained how the estimates are done. Mr. Kacyper gets retail employment figures and multiplies it by the national sales per employee. The two factors that can contribute to an increase locally are more employees or a national increase in sales.

Mr. Proto arrived at this time.

Mr. Penniman suggested a presentation on securitization for tobacco money should be given to the full Board.

Report from the Finance Director

Mr. Squires reported the County Audit begins next week. He said the County is in a very good position. The General Fund balance un-appropriated compared to last year is up about $3 million. He distributed a comparison of total fund balances between 1990-1999 and why the General Fund is up. He said the balance in the General Fund is a result of one-shot revenues, assets increased and liability stayed the same, encumbrances went down, expenditures remained constant, and revenues grew about $3 million. In 1999, there was more revenues than expenses. However, if the fund balance is continually used for a revenue source, eventually it will reduce the fund balance. He also reported that there were no overruns in mandate programs. He stated that expenditures increased from 1998 to 1999 by $600,000.

Mr. Proto asked since the County has been more aggressive in applying for grants if there is an increase in the amount of money received. Mr. Squires said the figures show that State Aid has increased and feels it is partly attributable to the number of successful grants. Mr. Proto asked if the audit would identify the grants that were applied for and the successful grants. Mr. Squires said the books do not distinguish between aid and a grant. Mr. Proto spoke about the creation of a grants administrator and asked if a list of grants could be produced. Mr. Penniman felt it would be helpful if that information was done by department. Mr. Joseph requested the County Administrator prepare a list of grants by department for the Committee. Mr. Proto spoke about his concern that they should start saving money as grants run out. Mr. Joseph reminded Committee members that spending money out of the fund balance will catch up to the Board eventually, but not this year.

Ms. Davis arrived at this time.

Report from the Deputy County Administrator

Ms. West said she did not have a report.

Fiscal Policy - Rollover

Mr. Joseph reviewed the proposed changes to the Fiscal Policy concerning rollover as discussed at the last meeting. He said once the books are closed out by the Finance Director, departments would know what they have as unspent funds, and then the Board would look at why there was rollover and determine if it is something the department accomplished or if it was a windfall. If it is something based on departmental efforts, it would be certified as eligible rollover. If it was deemed simply a windfall, it would not be certified as eligible. Once it is certified, the Board would no longer ask how it is going to be spent.

Mr. Todd clarified that this action would eliminate program committee control once the rollover is certified by the Board. Ms. West said one question that will be asked by departments is how much will be used in the current year and how much will be used in the following year. If the rollover is going to be used in the following year, the fiscal target will be adjusted for one-time. If it is going to be used in the current year, it will be placed in a program expense line in the program budget. In order to spend that money, a transfer will occur which is provided to program committees as information only. It was noted that in the current Fiscal Policy, program committees do not deny transfers. Mr. Todd spoke about his concern that the Budget Committee is removing program committee control over rollover. Mr. Erb said it needs to be clear to Department Heads that if this policy is approved, that it will be followed. Mr. Penniman feels if committees have the information up front they will less likely get involved later. He also feels it is important that debates concerning windfalls need to take place at the program committee level.

Mr. Squires said he would like to encourage the Board to deny revenue surpluses. He said there are very few instances where a department can justify that they are the reason they had access revenue. For example, the Finance Director does not have any control on how many people are buying property and paying for a tax search.

Ms. Davis said she is not fully supportive of determining legitimate versus windfall, but asked if the proposed policy is approved that TILOR (Target In Lieu of Rollover) is eliminated. Ms. West felt that would happen.

Ms. West stated that Department Heads will indicate what they have control over and what they do not.

Sheriff Meskill spoke about the control he has over certain revenue. He feels it would be difficult to determine what is revenue in access of revenue and what was good management He said there needs to be incentives for departments. Ms. West stated that in order to spend revenues a budget adjustment is required with Board approval.

Mr. Erb feels there will be some concern among Department Heads about consistency being applied to certifying rollover specifically with unfilled position. Sheriff Meskill spoke about his situation in his Department with vacancies. He said he has purposely left a position vacant for a period of time to allow the hiring of a temporary clerk. He said Department Heads need that flexibility to plan and manage their department. Mr. Proto said he would feel more comfortable if Departments would describe situations like Sheriff Meskill's periodically. He said he agrees that it is important that the process and method is consistent and that there is clear understanding with Board members. Ms. West said that the Fiscal Policy indicates intentional vacancies due to hiring complications, spending efficiencies, etc. are all favorable grounds for authorization of surplus funds. She said the Department will explain the reasons for a vacancy and why there is a surplus in the documentation. Ms. Davis spoke about her concern with a position being vacant for a certain period of time and Board members questioning the need for that position. Mr. Joseph feels the key to making a policy work well is both trust and predictability in what the Board is going to do which will only come with experience. He also spoke about Ms. Davis' concern and said it is a perception but does not recall it happening.

Ms. Davis said that the level of confidence is not functioning among departments.

Mr. Penniman was excused at 10:17 a.m.

Mr. Joseph agrees with Ms. Davis. The rollover policy is designed as an incentive to encourage certain behavior and will only work if there is confidence that it will stay in place.

Mr. Joseph said he would like to have Department Heads reactions before the Committee considers the proposed policy. Mr. Joseph requested that a narrative explanation of the Fiscal Policy included.

Capital Budget Scenarios

At this time, Mr. Joseph reviewed the capital budget scenarios distributed. The Committee discussed other alternatives that could be considered for each project. It was also noted that the solar panels for the library should be added to the capital projects list. Mr. Kazda spoke about the county-owned buildings that are in need of conditioning and noted that most of those are included on the capital projects list.

It was felt that some of these ongoing items that need to be renewed on a regular basis should be included in the Buildings and Grounds operating budget.

Discussion followed concerning the use of surplus money for certain capital projects rather than bonding. Mr. Proto asked about the possibility of adding floors to the Mental Health Building. Mr. Kazda reported that a cost analysis was completed for building the remaining floors. He said the cost per square foot is significantly higher than building it anywhere else on the ground including acquisition of the land. He stated that in order to build the other floors, the building would need to be vacated for at least 18 months.

Mr. Todd was excused at 11:16 a.m.

Announcement

Ms. Davis said she attended a meeting yesterday with members of the Human Services Cabinet. She said the Cabinet was requested to design the criteria to evaluate the proposals for the fund money. However, she said there was a misunderstanding about who would be performing the evaluations. She clarified that the group would only be deciding the process not who would get the funds.

Adjournment

The meeting adjourned at 11:21 a.m.
 

Return to Tompkins County Homepage

E-mail Comments about this page