Ithaca, N.Y. — Taxpayers fork over a little more money. County spending ticks up a bit. The number of county employees stays essentially unchanged.

Tompkins County Administrator Joe Mareane unveiled his new budget for 2015 on Tuesday.

In a news release, Mareane noted that the proposed budget is notable for what it doesn’t do: Impose significant cuts or tax increases.

Its moderation, Mareane said in a statement, is the result of the planning and hard choices county lawmakers have made over the past several years.

“The 2015 budget is characterized by continuity and restraint,” Mareane said in his budget message to the Tompkins County Legislature.

“The Legislature has steadfastly refused to engage in the nearsighted fiscal gimmicks so many others have employed. As a result, we remain able to maintain services, invest in the public’s infrastructure, sustain our partner agencies, and maintain our strong fiscal health.”

“The budget maintains fiscal discipline, with minimal appropriation of County reserves and spending growth held to just 1.6% over 2014.”

4 other takeaways from Mareane’s budget proposal, as detailed in his statement:


1 — Meets ’emerging priorities’

The budget meets what Mareane calls “several emerging priorities.” He lists temporary relief for the county airport, funding for the Jail Alternatives Task Force and the county’s living wage goals as among these priorities.

The budget calls for an additional staff person at Opportunities, Alternatives and Resources to help with the bail program. It also calls for county funds to bring employees of one contract agency to the AFCU living wage.

2 — So, what are the numbers?

Here are the numbers suggested by Mareane:
– County spending grows by 1.6 percent.
– Property tax levy increases by 2.34 percent. (Below the tax cap – see #3.)
– The number of count employees remains 7 percent below the peak in 2009.
– It comes to a total of $180 million in spending.
– Medicaid will “consume 25% of the county’s property tax levy,” the statement says.
– “The County Solid Waste Fee also would decrease from $56 to $52, reducing the overall budget impact on the average county homeowner to $2.34.”

3 — It’s under the property tax cap.

The property tax levy would go up by 2.34 percent, adding $6.34 to the annual bill of the average county homeowner. But because it’s below the tax cap, county taxpayers would qualify for a state rebate.

County officials note, “Since the increase falls within the State-imposed property tax cap, that amount of increase would be returned to homeowners by the State under the new property tax freeze law.”

For more on the tax cap, see here: http://governor.ny.gov/citizenconnects/reforminggovernment/guide-to-the-property-tax.

The Ithaca Journal notes that the average Tompkins County homeowner would see a $1,129 property tax bill in 2015 under the budget.

4 — How this thing moves forward.

The budget will be reviewed by the county’s Expanded Budget Committee on Wednesday, Sept. 10 at 5:30 p.m.

A series of meetings will then be held about the budget through September and October. The county will hold its annual public information meeting on Oct. 8.

Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.