TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y. — Tompkins County legislators have been working on the county’s $179 million 2018 budget for more than a month. The public will have one more chance for input this month.

The 2018 budget was released by Tompkins County Administrator Joe Mareane in early September. Since then, legislators have been examining the budget, listening to department heads and making amendments. On Tuesday, the Legislature unanimously adopted amendments to the budget. Next there will be a public hearing and legislators are scheduled to adopt the budget in early November.

A public hearing on the amended budget has been scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct. 30 in Legislature Chambers in the Governor Daniel D. Tompkins Building, 121 E. Court St., Ithaca.

Review the budget and associated documents

► Tompkins unveils $179 million recommended budget for 2018; tax levy up but rate down

When the budget process began, county officials highlighted reducing the jail population and housing as two focus areas for 2018. The investment in the jail, re-entry, criminal justice and alternatives to incarceration is clear — including the potential cost for boarding out inmates, the county will spend nearly $1 million in 2018 on programs and personnel related to those issues.

Here is a breakdown of where money is going for those priorities, plus a look at some other new and big spending in the budget.

1 — Impact on taxes

The recommended budget would increase the Tompkins County property tax levy by 2.32 percent and the recommended tax rate is $6.57 per thousand. That would translate to an increase of $11.14 in a median-valued $178,000 home.

To learn more about the tax rate, a breakdown of town, county and school district tax rates and assessment rolls, visit this county page. (Information is for 2017)

2 — Improvements for the Tompkins County Jail

Tompkins County received good news this year from a study that examined the Tompkins County Jail and criminal justice system that the jail does not need to expand. Population is expected to decrease. However, the study recommended a number of changes and ways to help reduce the population and improve the jail, and they’re not cheap. The county got another hit recently after the New York State Commission of Correction told the county it was receiving its last variance, which allows the jail to operate with 18 additional beds. As a result, the county had to set aside hundreds of thousands of dollars in case of board outs.

Here’s a few jail-related items in the 2018 amended budget:

  • $300,000 set aside in the contingent fund for board-outs at the jail
  • $171,381 for expanded mental health staff focused on jail services
  • $88,647 for a second nurse position at the Tompkins County Jail

3 — Criminal justice, re-entry and alternatives to incarceration

In addition to improving conditions in the jail, the county is also investing in services related to re-entry — people who are returning to the community after jail or prison — and alternatives to incarceration.

  • $84,000 for College Initiative Upstate. The program is run by Opportunities, Alternatives and Resources and works with students who have been involved with the criminal justice system. The purpose is to “build pathways from criminal justice involvement to college and beyond.”
  • $22,000 for a Sequential Intercept Mapping workshop. The name sounds odd, but it’s a re-entry related workshop that will help the community identify how people with mental illness and substance abuse disorders come into contact with the local criminal justice system. The mapping process will help identify resources and highlight areas for change.
  • $97,513 for one new criminal court assistant district attorney position. Two new positions had initially been requested.
  • $107,235 for a criminal justice coordinator. The person who fills this 18-month position will implement recommendations in the Jail Study report.
  • $6,000 for a part-time residential adviser for Endeavor House, a transitional program for residents returning from the Tompkins County Jail.
  • $107,657 for senior probation officer to focus on Drug Court and electronic monitoring.

4 — Other (Tompkins County Public Library, administrative changes)

  • $142,777 put aside for potential organizational changes in county administration, such as adding a second deputy county administrator.
  • $65,286 for Youth Services Librarian position at Tompkins County Public Library.
  • $60,000 to support a new operations manager at Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County
  • $89,061 for a new Real Property Tax Appraiser position

5 — Housing and homelessness

  • $93,627 to fund the creation of a senior planner position
  • $20,000 to make Continuum of Care coordinator full-time. The Ithaca/Tompkins Continuum of Care is a planning body of local agencies working to address homelessness so there is “no wrong door to enter the system.”
  • $50,000 for a Transitional Housing Plan.
  • $42,000 to fund Solutions to End Homelessness Program expansion. Money provided to this program goes to Continuum of Care partners, Tompkins Community Action and Rapid Re-Housing and Eviction Prevention. The programs provide rental assistance for people facing imminent eviction, rental assistance for people residing in emergency shelters.
  • $18,216 to expand Ithaca Rescue Mission Friendship Center hours to include weekends.

6 — Childcare

  • $50,000 as multi-year funding for the Child Developmental Council to improve childcare options in Tompkins County
  • $16,422 for Downtown Ithaca Childcare Center to add seven new childcare slots for children whose families receive Tompkins County DSS subsidy.
  • $10,000 for Health and Safety Grants for Prospective Registered Day Care Providers

Kelsey O'Connor

Kelsey O'Connor is the managing editor for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at koconnor@ithacavoice.com and follow her on Twitter @bykelseyoconnor.