News Details - Legislators Continue to Hear of Target Reductions’ Effects
At their fourth session hearing budget presentations from County departments and agencies, Legislators acting as an Expanded Budget Committee continued to hear about how directed target reductions of nearly 7% would affect programs, as outlined in the 2011 Tentative Budget. Many programs are requesting funds be put back into the budget as over target requests.
Assessment Director Jay Franklin has asked that nearly $84,000 be restored to the budget to allow him to preserve the existing office structure and individual assessment review of each parcel in the County every year, maintaining to preserve an approach that has put Tompkins County at what he called “the pinnacle of real property assessment in New York State.” Without the over target funding, Franklin will reorganize the department, cutting a net 1.5 positions, realigning some responsibilities, and shifting to a more mass appraisal approach, similar to what is done elsewhere. He also told legislators that a projected $55,000 in State aid for 2011 is still in question and expressed some concern about a new cyclical aid formula, whose rules are still being developed.. County Administrator Joe Mareane does not recommend the over-target spending as part of the tentative budget, saying the departmental reorganization plan allows quality operations to be maintained within the spending target, but added that he believes the department cannot be reduced further in future years. Franklin said his budget assumes a continued flat real estate market, and that he would be back to ask for additional staff if the market resumes growth.
With much of the target reduction accomplished through reduction of the Commissioner’s salary by prior agreement with the Legislature, the Personnel Department asked for approval just over $4,900 in over target spending for operating expenses, recommended as target by the County Administrator, noting the reduction would affect core governance.
INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY SERVICES:
The administrator also recommends, as essential to core operations, over target spending of more than $68,000 for information technology, to cover annual maintenance for the County’s new centralized human resources/payroll system, and for maintenance of a voice-over-internet phone system to replace outdated equipment, which has been initiated in four departments so far. ITS director Greg Potter has reduced his small staff by one as part of the budget, and said he would have to reduce staff by an additional position, if over target spending is not approved.
HUMAN SERVICES COALITION:
Reporting on both the Coalition and on the community agencies whose funding the Coalition coordinates, Coalition leaders said they have absorbed the reduction while advancing only one over target request—for $10,000 in one time funding to continue the AmeriCorps Access to Justice program operated by Neighborhood Legal Services. For the Coalition itself, director Kathy Schlather said County funds now support a little less than half the budget, with the operation applying for as many grants as possible and cutting just about everywhere else it can to preserve staff. For Coalition agencies, the 6.9% reduction was spread across 17 funded agencies, a total of more than $40,000 in reductions. That is difficult for many of the agencies, assistant director Nancy Burston noted, many of which are supported by a “patchwork” of funding sources, and where County funding leverages matching funds from other sources.
OFFICE FOR THE AGING:
The County Administrator has recommended more than $50,000 of the $67,000 advanced by the Office for the Aging, much of that on the grounds of preserving health and safety. Director Lisa Holmes stressed the over target funds would sustain needed services for the at-risk and frail elderly—including such functions as nutrition and home care services, home repair, and heating assistance, in many cases filling the gap created by the loss of State funding.
The Expanded Budget Committee continues its review Thursday, September 30.