The following is a republished press release from the Tompkins County Legislature and NOT written by the Ithaca Voice … click here to submit community announcements directly to The Voice, or contact me at msmith@ithacavoice.com.

ITHACA, NY – The Legislature tonight held its annual Community Budget Forum, inviting residents to learn about and comment on the County’s recommended 2017 budget currently under review by the Legislature.

About a dozen people attended, and 11 of them spoke. Six speakers urged that additional funding be provided the Library as part of the budget, especially for a Technology Librarian. An $82,000 request for over-target funding to support the librarian was not included in the administrator’s budget.

Nina Scholtz, president of the Friends of the Library, thanked the County for its continuing and ongoing support of the library, but said the Technology Librarian is needed to provide that needed technological expertise to the people of Tompkins County as part of the Library’s new 21st Century Technology Lab.

Linda Bartnick, a retired university librarian who relocated here two years ago, said she had operated three mission-centered labs such as this, and that such facilities cannot be operated without the appropriate personnel.

Patrice Lockert Anthony described libraries as “sacred space” and spoke of the great impact libraries have had throughout her life. “Our public library is top-notch and deserves whatever support we can provide,” she said, noting that sufficient support is essential to provide access for an informed and participatory citizenry, regardless of class, or gender. Gina Varrichio called the Library “possibly the only organization that serves people from birth to death in this community, from all economic backgrounds,” and her son, Drew Varrichio, who is home-schooled and a library volunteer said, “I really like the Library…The Library is really great, so I’d give it a lot of money.”

Two people from the Ithaca Youth Bureau spoke about youth programs—Suki Tabor explaining the impact of a $10,000 over-target request for the Pathfinders component of the Outing Program, and director Liz Klohmann supporting a $2,500 maintenance-of-effort increase in funding for the Recreation Partnership. She called the Partnership “insurance” for the community’s young people, helping to keep them actively engaged and healthy, and providing job skills.

Child Development Council director Sue Dale-Hall spoke of the ongoing decline in the number of individual childcare providers, and asked that the gap between need and supply be addressed as part of the budget process.

John Gaines, board chair for Foodnet Meals on Wheels said an over-target fund request through the Office for the Aging Budget, totalling just over $10,000, would enable the agency to maintain the living-wage standard for staff. He said that would be particularly helpful in maintaining employee morale at the time that long-time director Steve Griffin is retiring.

Wrapping up the comments, Richard Flavil asked that Legislators, in looking at the budget “take it personally. I think you would get a better budget that way,” he said.

On Thursday, October 6, Legislators meeting as an Expanded Budget Committee will begin to recommend modifications to the administrator’s budget, the first of as many as three voting meetings before the budget formally advances to the Legislature. The 2017 Recommended Budget supports total expenditures of $173 million and local dollar spending of $84.7 million (increases of less than 1%). It meets the Legislature’s 2017 budget goal of a 3% increase in the County property tax levy. The property tax rate in the budget will go down for the third straight year—from $6.73 per $1,000 to $6.63 per $1,000—a reduction of 1.5%. The County property tax bill for the owner of a median-valued $175,000 home would increase by $16.

The 2017 Recommended Budget, with schedules and other budget-related information, is posted on the budget page of the County web site at www.TompkinsCountyNY.gov/ctyadmin/2017budget. Residents may submit budget comments online at the County web site budget page, or at the County’s Facebook page on the budget. Written comments can be mailed to the Legislature Office at the Governor Daniel D. Tompkins Building, 121 E. Court Street, Ithaca.

People may address legislators on the budget at the beginning of any County Legislature meeting, as well as at the Legislature’s formal budget hearing, which will take place in November before the budget is adopted. All budget meetings, including the hearing, take place at Legislature Chambers in the Governor Tompkins Building.

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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.