ITHACA, NY- Tompkins County legislators gathered Thursday to present highlights and offer community members insight on the 2017 budget proposal.

Falling sales tax revenues, unpredictable jail board-out costs, and new guidelines for assigned legal counsel threaten to shake up the budget said County Administrator Joe Mareane. County sales taxes have seen a decline in five of the last six quarters making it the worst performance in twenty years.

In 2013, the sales tax revenue was projected to reach $37.6 million, but now county legislators must find ways to mitigate a much lower revenue of $33.3 million.

This solution comes in the form of raising the tax levy by 3 percent which will generate an additional $1.4 million to offset the projected sales tax loss, fund capital investments, and cover normal budgetary items.

The average taxpayer can expect to see a 1.4 percent increase which translates to about an additional $16 for the year.

Mareane also highlighted positive indications of improving community welfare as well as several over-the- target requests including several new employee positions, a capital investment in new highway equipment, funding for records digitalization, and investment in a natural infrastructure initiative.

About a dozen people attended the forum, many of whom urged legislators to include funding for the Tompkins County Library’s new “21 st Century Room” project.

One of the speakers, Gina Varrichio, referred to the library as “possibly the only organization that serves people from birth to death in this community, from all economic backgrounds.” Varrichio’s son, who also spoke at the forum, is home-schooled and regularly relies on the library.

The expanded budget committee will meet twice to amend the recommended budget into the tentative budget which will be presented in a public hearing before it is officially adopted sometime in mid-November.

More information on the recommended budget including future hearing dates can be found on the Tompkins County 2017 Budget webpage.

Vaughn Golden

Vaughn Golden is a freelance radio and print reporter covering politics around the southern tier and central New York. He authors the weekly "Capitol Watch" watchdog report on Ithaca's representatives...