ITHACA, N.Y. — Wednesday night, Mayor Svante Myrick presented his 2018 proposed budget to Ithaca’s Common Council.

The biggest news of the night could be a relief to at least 95 percent of one or two family homeowners. There will be no tax increase.

Homeowners aren’t the only people who could be getting some good news in 2018. The People’s Budget may finally come to fruition, the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program might get a financial boost, and odd-even parking may officially be eliminated in lieu of a new digital mass notification system.

We broke down some highlights from the presentation last night and will keep a lookout for updates and more interesting news as we pick through the proposed budget. Keep in mind though, Common Council will still have the tough task of approving and modifying the budget in the months to come.

The big news

  • There will be no change in the 2018 tax rate, leaving it at $12.04 per $1,000 assessed value.
  • The 2017 and 2018 tax rate is lowest it’s been since 2013.
  • There will be no change in property taxes for 92 percent on one and two family homeowners.
  • Three percent of one and two family homeowners will see a decrease in property taxes.
  • Five percent of one and two family homeowners will see a property tax increase.

A few noteworthy projects

  • The city will be losing $130,000 in parking tickets by relying on mass notification systems to inform people when to move vehicles, as opposed to relying on odd-even parking. Myrick said he’ll be asking Common Council to issue heftier fines for people who don’t comply with the mass notification.
  • A shift to LED street lights will have an upfront cost but is a long term cost-saving measure.
  • The same number of police and firefighters funded in 2017 will be funded in 2018. This includes four firefighters paid for by the SAFER grant.
  • Funding will be freed up for the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion Program.
  • Funding for the Greater Ithaca Activities Center and Youth Bureau hospitality employment training program was approved.
  • The People’s Budget, a first time expense, will get $10,000. The Youth Organizing Fellowship has worked to initiate the participatory budget expenditure since the spring of 2016.  Myrick said he hopes the pilot program will encourage more civic participation from people in the local community.
  • One thing not being funded this year is the Gorge Ranger Program, which was officially axed from the city’s budget for the first time in 2017.

Interesting city facts

  • Since 2011, the city has added $131 million in assessed value from new development, which generates $1.6 million worth of new tax revenue.
  • To add $1 million worth of tax revenue to the city, $83 million worth of new growth would have to take place in Ithaca. For perspective, $84 worth of growth was produced by Seneca Place, Lofts @ Six Mile Creek, Cayuga Place Apartments, Collegetown Terrace Apartments and Ithaca Marriott Downtown on the Commons.
  • 58 percent of property in the city of Ithaca is tax exempt — only 42 percent is taxable.
  • Cornell’s tax exempt property is worth more than the combined value of all the taxable property in the city.
  • If Cornell paid property taxes, the city would have an additional 25 million in property tax revenue. Myrick said, “I continue to believe that this is the great shame of an otherwise great institution. Every time I say that, it pains me to because as you know I went to Cornell and I love Cornell. But I also know now by experience that our city would be better off if Princeton were here instead of Cornell University or Harvard were here instead of Cornell or UPenn. Because the taxes would be lower, the services would be better, and the streets would be better paved.

Jolene Almendarez

Jolene Almendarez is Managing Editor at The Ithaca Voice. She can be reached at jalmendarez@ithacavoice.com; you can learn more about her at the links in the top right of this box.