News Details - Four Department Budgets Presented in 2012 Budget Review
Tompkins County Legislators, acting as an Expanded Budget Committee, wrapped up the presentation phase of their review of the tentative 2012 County, as they heard from four more County departments.
Presenting tonight were the Department of Emergency Response, the Sheriff’s Office, District Attorney, and the Human Rights Commission
County Administrator Joe Mareane’s 2012 tentative budget begins with what could be supported under the State Property Tax Cap (a 2.92% levy increase and recommends a package in line with the Legislature’s levy target of 5.4%. The Legislature, by the 60% margin required under the tax cap law, has approved a local law, which preserves the option of exceeding the cap should the Legislature decide to do so at the time it adopts the budget.
Highlights of tonight’s review:
Within restrictions of the cap the Tentative Budget includes nearly $74,000 to restore the Director’s position to full-time (from 25 hours) and to continue the half-time Assistant Director for EMS. It also at the cap level restores two emergency services dispatchers; at the recommended level, the budget restores an additional half position for dispatch and funding for the full-time Assistant Director for Fire and Emergency Management, a total allocation of more than $268,000.
Director Lee Shurleff said the only way his department would have to meet the budget targets would be a reduction in personnel, for program support or to operate the 911 Center. Among pressures on the budget are a loss of $30,000 State Health Department funding, which for many years has supported emergency medical services administration, and increased costs for communications system maintenance, no longer supported through initial service contracts for the system. For the sixth consecutive year, the budget includes no money for equipment replacement.
SHERIFF’S OFFICE AND JAIL:
At the cap level, the budget for Law Enforcement includes nearly $270,000 to restore one Sergeant position and two Deputies, and at the recommended level restores an additional Sergeant. The Administrator, however, in his recommendation, does not add a half-time clerical position in the Civil Division (more than $23,000 cost), which was eliminated last year. The Administrator supports use of $80,000 in department rollover to replace three vehicles. For the Corrections Division, the budget, at the cap level, supports nearly $70,000 to address underfunding of one position in the division in 2011.
Sheriff Ken Lansing noted that the deputy positions, at the property tax cap, prevents a drastic reduction in patrol coverage and preserves programs such as DARE, Neighborhood Watch, and the marine patrol, but that the department at current levels is still below that recommended by the State Department of Criminal Justice Services. The second sergeant position, above the cap, would maintain current supervisory levels. The Sheriff said the mandated Civil Division’s current reduced level of staffing has caused work delays, including a nine-month delay in crime reporting.
In Legislators’ questions, there was much focus on overtime trends, which figures showed in Corrections nearly doubled in 2011 with another increase for 2012. While the Sheriff said he will concentrate on that issue with staff and that some of that may reflect a jail close to capacity with much transportation to the courts, County Administrator Mareane also noted that the increase may be misleading, because of how overtime is budgeted compared to how it is reported. Staff will provide Legislators with additional data related to hours of overtime worked, to better reflect the situation.
The Administrator’s budget, under the cap, supports two over target requests—including $215,000 to restore two attorney positions. D.A. Gwen Wilkinson told Legislators the only way to meet the County’s fiscal targets was to cut the two attorney positions, which she said was “kind of a fiction,” since her office could not operate with two fewer attorneys. She called it a “status quo budget, but one that preserves staff cuts made two years ago. She said the budget “meets current public safety needs,” reflecting the lowest realistic cost of doing business.
HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION:
Under limits of the tax cap, spending supported by the County Administrator includes partial hours for an associate paralegal, with another $19,000 to restore the position to its current half-time status under the Recommended Budget. Human Rights Director Shawn Martel Moore said the reduced level of only 6 hours for the position would make it very difficult to maintain caseload within statutory requiremenmts.
At their next session on Monday, October 17, Legislators will begin recommending changes to the Tentative Budget, at the first of three scheduled voting meetings. Any recommendations will need approval by the full Legislature to become final.
An electronic version of the 2012 Tentative Budget, the detailed Expanded Budget Committee review schedule, and other information regarding the Tentative Budget are available for download and review on the budget page.