Budget and Capital Committee
August 28, 2006
Scott Heyman Conference Room
Present: M. Koplinka-Loehr, N. Shinagawa, P. Mackesey, M. Sigler, R. Booth
Legislators: T. Joseph, D. Kiefer, M. Robertson, K. Herrera, J. Dennis
Staff: S. Whicher, N. Jayne, S. Martel-Moore, P. Younger, M. Lynch, County Administration; R. Deluca, Mental Health, P. Carey, DSS; L. Holmes, Office for the Aging; B. Grinnell-Crosby, Health Department; N. Zahler, Youth Services Department
Guests: WHCU News; K. Schlather, Human Services Coalition
Mr. Koplinka-Loehr called the meeting to order at 3:03 p.m.
There were no changes to the agenda.
It was MOVED by Mr. Booth, seconded by Mr. Shinagawa, and unanimously adopted by voice vote by members present, to approve the minutes of July 10, 2006 as submitted. MINUTES APPROVED.
Comments from the Public
No member of the public was in attendance.
Mr. Koplinka-Loehr announced the community public forum on the 2007 proposed County budget will be held September 21, 2006. More information will be provided under the report by the Public Information Officer.
County Administrator’s Report
Mr. Whicher reported he met with the Statewide Wireless Network (SWN) and had a positive interaction with them which he attributes to Mr. Wood’s letter of request to SWN that requested funding in the amount of $829,000 for ten years and five years at $500,000. Mr. Whicher said he expects to hear back from SWN before November. He noted that this funding would not show up in Tompkins County until 2009.
Public Information Officer’s Report
Ms. Lynch reported the Community public forum on the County budget will be held on September 21 at 7 p.m. at the Greater Ithaca Activities Center. The format will likely be consistent with past years; however, she will be discussing this further with Mr. Whicher, Mr. Joseph, and Mr. Koplinka-Loehr. At their next meeting the Public Information Advisory Board will also discussing a follow-up to the forum.
RESOLUTION NO. - SCHEDULING A PUBLIC HEARING ON THE 2007 TOMPKINS
COUNTY BUDGET AND THE 2007-2011 TOMPKINS COUNTY
It was MOVED by Ms. Mackesey, seconded by Mr. Shinagawa, and unanimously adopted by voice vote by members present, to approve the following resolution and submit to the full Legislature.
WHEREAS, the tentative 2007 Tompkins County Budget and the 2007 – 2011 Tompkins County Capital Program are scheduled to be adopted on November 21, 2005, now therefore be it
RESOLVED, on recommendation of the Budget and Capital Committee, That a public hearing be held before the Tompkins County Legislature in Legislative Chambers, located at 320 North Tioga Street, Ithaca, New York on Tuesday, November 14, 2006, at 7:00 o'clock in the evening thereof concerning the review of the tentative 2007 Tompkins County Budget and the 2007-2011 Tompkins County Capital Program. At such time and place all persons interested in the subject matter will be heard concerning the same,
RESOLVED, further, That the Clerk of the Legislature is hereby authorized and directed to place proper notice of such public hearing in the official newspaper of the County.
SEQR ACTION: TYPE II-20
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RESOLUTION NO. – INCREASE IN HOURS – SENIOR RECORDING CLERK – COUNTY CLERK
It was MOVED by Ms. Mackesey, seconded by Mr. Booth, and unanimously adopted by voice vote by members present, to approve the following resolution and submit to the full Legislature.
2007 Budget – County Administrator’s Overview
Mr. Whicher distributed a summary of budget projections dated August. The following were built into the calculations contained in the document:
$1 million use of Fund Balance;
Salary increases for Confidential and Management employees;
Contract settlement expensed related to the Road Patrol;
$300,000 Motor Vehicle Use Fee;
Anticipated funding from the Statewide Wireless Network in the amount of $500,000. At this time this funding is not confirmed; therefore, there is risk in placing this funding in the budget. Following discussion, it was agreed that this item needed further discussion;
Extra $165,000 revenue from the Transfer Tax;
Over Target Request include $650,000 in negotiated salary increases
At this time, and upon an initial review of Over Target Requests, the tax levy change is 7.5% and the tax rate change is 4.8%.
Mr. Whicher spoke of Over Target Requests and stated he will be recommending to fill very few of these requests. He also said he has been working very hard to meet the Legislature’s expectations to develop a budget with a zero percent tax levy increase; however, it has been very difficult.
At this time he explained the process the Administration Team have undertaken over the last couple of weeks. All County departments and agencies were given the task of developing a total of $1.6 million in reductions. Because he feels County departments represent the core business for the County, he said he weighed agencies more heavily than departments during his review of Over Target Requests. Any agency that directly supports housing, food, or jobs did not receive a reduction. He said agencies were asked to come back with an impact analysis of the reductions made. He said there was very good participation and support during the process. Departments met in a variety of different ways, including by themselves or in teams with other departments, to talk about reductions as well and possible efficiencies and were also asked to come back with an impact analysis. Suggestions that were brought forward were helpful but many cannot be taken care of during this budget process as there is need for further review.
Mr. Whicher summarized the conclusion he has reached and stated he cannot meet the Legislature’s goal of zero percent without making drastic cuts in the organization. At this time he asked for interpretation from the Committee as to how the Legislature’s directive of reaching a goal of a zero percent tax levy increase should be interpreted – whether to reach the zero percent which would include value judgements made by him, or to produce a budget he can recommend along with options for further reductions to meet that goal. He said he thinks a budget that includes a 5 ½ percent increase is what he is going to be able to recommend.
Mr. Booth said his understanding of the resolution adopted by the Legislature was a directive to the County Administrator to produce a budget with a zero percent property tax levy increase.
Ms. Robertson said she interprets the resolution as being a goal and something the County Administrator should strive for but not an absolute.
Ms. Kiefer said she had hoped there would have been a way to evaluate programs and that it doesn’t seem fair to ask Mr. Whicher to do that. She views the term “goal” as just a target to attempt to meet and would rather Mr. Whicher produce a budget with the lowest possible tax increase. She believes this would be a more fiscally prudent approach.
Ms. Herrera said it is the responsibility of Legislators to step up and make the difficult decisions Mr. Whicher has spoken about. Mr. Joseph agreed, and stated Mr. Whicher can present ideas to the Legislators about how to reach a zero percent tax increase but it is the Legislature’s responsibility to make those choices.
Ms. Robertson said some agencies are contracted with by the County to perform mandated services; therefore, she disagrees with Mr. Whicher’s earlier assumption that agencies do not provide core services.
Mr. Booth said once a budget is presented to the Legislature, the responsibility for the budget will lie with the Legislature and not the County Administrator. He believes Mr. Whicher is capable of getting the Legislature to the point where it can make those difficult decisions.
The discussion concluded with the Committee making no formal interpretation of the resolution spoken of.
Over Target Presentation
At this time Ms. Jayne provided the Committee with an overview of how the processing of information will be electronically managed during the Expanded Budget Committee meetings. Ms. Kiefer said she would like the tax increase not to be displayed during the process in order to have more equitable treatment of Over Target Requests. Mr. Booth disagreed; he feels it is important to keep the numbers on the screen throughout the process.
Mr. Koplinka-Loehr urged Legislators to submit written suggestions/information about priority topic areas prior to the meetings as it is difficult to mange the paper flow throughout the meetings.
Discussion of Meeting Schedule
There was a brief discussion of the Expanded Budget Committee schedule and when departments would have an opportunity to present information. Ms. Zahler said the schedule only allows small amounts of time for departments to make presentations. Mr. Booth advised departments to present the most important items clearly and concisely. Ms. Robertson also urged departments to present information ahead of time.
Review of Fiscal Policy
The Committee reviewed the Fiscal Policy and made additional changes. A revised Policy will be presented at the next meeting.
The meeting adjourned at 4:56 p.m.