TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y. — Tompkins County Legislature Chair Martha Robertson set the tone for local government in 2018 by highlighting transition, preservation and progress.
In the annual chair report delivered Tuesday at Tompkins County Legislature, Robertson said transition was an inevitable theme, with so many new faces this year. There is a new county administrator starting soon, two new deputy administrators and five new legislators.
“This is a great opportunity to think creatively about new systems and structures,” Robertson said. “However there’s no doubt that while these transitions will require special time and attention, we also have to work to preserve what we already have and make progress on our ongoing initiatives.”
Replacing Legislator Mike Lane, legislators unanimously elected Robertson chair of Tompkins County Legislature at the first meeting of the year, and Anna Kelles was selected to be vice chair.
Along with all the change and transition, preservation is also a goal, Robertson said.
“We’re anxiously watching developments at the state and national level because their decisions about budgets, regulations and other policies affect county government in fundamental ways,” Robertson said.
For example, she said unfunded mandates such as Medicaid deeply impact Tompkins County taxpayers. About 24 percent of the county’s property tax levy goes directly to pay for that one unfunded mandate, she said.
Robertson also said Tompkins County must also move forward and make progress in other areas, and that progress will happen at the committee level. Tompkins County Legislature has several committees to address a wide range of issues. The core committees will stay the same for 2018, with new legislator appointments, but two were dissolved and one was created.
Appointments were made to the Budget, Capital and Personnel; Facilities and Infrastructure; Government Operations; Health and Human Services; Planning, Development, and Environmental Quality; Public Safety; Transportation; and Workforce Diversity and Inclusion committees.
While work will still continue regarding the Tompkins County Jail in the Public Safety Committee, the Jail Study Committee will no longer meet. And the Old Library Committee has also dissolved since the work is complete.
Robertson has created a new committee that she will chair that will focus on housing. She said housing is a “perennial problem that impacts all sectors of our community.” The committee will implement the Housing Strategy and consider new initiatives.
On the topic of housing, Tompkins County legislators unanimously voted to urge State Legislature to amend a section of county law to allow counties to appropriate funds toward the development of affordable housing. In researching next steps to implement the county’s Housing Strategy, officials found that New York State County Law does not permit counties to appropriate funds toward affordable housing.
The resolution states, “Without the authority to spend local resources on affordable housing, counties in the state of New York are facing a crisis in affordable housing development, as Federal and State funding for this urgent and critical need may be significantly cut in the future.”
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