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ITHACA, NY – The of funding for TCAT was once again a point of contention among local politicians, leading to extended discussion and a narrow 8-6 vote.

During Tuesday’s meeting of the Tompkins County Legislature, Distract 5 Legislator Jim Dennis suggested an amendment to the budget that would change TCAT’s requested $50,000 budget increase from “target,” or an ongoing annual commitment to a one-time contribution.

Quick recap: approximately 18% of TCAT’s funding comes from an agreement between Tompkins County, the City of Ithaca and Cornell University. Each of the three organizations must contribute an equal amount to TCAT annually.

The exact nature of the agreement seems unclear, even to some local officials. There was some debate among Common Council earlier this month as to whether or not making a one-time contribution would lock the city in to an ongoing commitment. A similar discussion arose during Tuesday’s legislature meeting.

Related: Ithaca raises TCAT funding – but far short of bus org’s request

District 6 Legislator Mike Sigler supported the amendment, saying that the City of Ithaca and Cornell had already moved to a one-time model. Sigler said he felt that “…it will facilitate a larger discussion in the summertime… It should be outside [TCAT’s] budget process, it should be within the group of the county, the city, and the TCAT board.”

Carol Chock of District 3 and Dooley Kiefer of District 10 provided a counterpoints.

Chock wanted to use the decision to send a message: “Keeping it in target means that when discussions come up this summer it would put more pressure on our other partners to up their amounts on a more regular basis as well.”

Dooley concurred, “I would leave it as target which indicates not only the same dollar amount, but indicates my belief that TCAT is important to at least to the tune of $50,000.”

Burbank agreed, noting that by keeping the funding increase ongoing, it set a starting point for next year’s deliberations.

The amendment passed 8-6, with with Legislators Dooley Kiefer, Carol Chock, Will Burbank, Leslyn McBean-Clairborne, Anna Kelles, and Dan Klein voting against.

Several of the legislators noted that with a potential cut to public transit funding coming from the U.S. House of Representatives, the deliberations about TCAT’s funding between the county, the city and Cornell would require substantial rethinking.

Related: U.S. House bill threatens $200,000 funding cut to TCAT 

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Michael Smith

Michael Smith reports on politics and local news for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached via email at msmith@ithacavoice.com, by cell at (607) 229-0885, or via Google Voice at (518) 650-3639.