ITHACA, N.Y. — The City of Ithaca has announced a reduction of services moving into the summer months as a result of the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The announcement stated that the city is “facing an unprecedented loss of revenues as a result of lower sales taxes, parking fees, and state aid, while at the same time experiencing unforeseen expenses.” The 2020 budget deficit could range from $4 million to $13 million — meaning from 6% to 20% of the city’s 2020 General Fund budget — according to the announcement.

“The most optimistic projection we have will make this the worst budget deficit the city has ever seen,” Mayor Svante Myrick said in April. “We think a $13 million reduction is something that we could reasonably expect to happen in our revenues.”

In April, the City of Ithaca Common Council approved a cost reduction plan of $5.4 million. At the meeting, Myrick said that it is the largest reduction of city services in the history of the City of Ithaca, and that youth services would feel the brunt of the changes due to the uncertainty around programming and if health regulations would allow for programming. 

The cut of city expenses also included furloughing up to 90 city employees, which is approximately 20% of the city’s workforce. Almost three-quarters of the city’s General Fund budget is allocated for compensation for city employees.

“While these cuts will reduce the City’s expenses and the projected budget deficit, they will also have a significant impact on City services and the City’s ability to respond to citizen concerns,” the announcement stated.

The announcement stated that the cuts and service interruptions can change as New York continues to reopen. Additionally, some of these reductions may be permanent as the economic slowdown is expected to continue into 2021. The Southern Tier moved to phase three of reopening on June 12.

The reductions are as follows.

Greater Ithaca Activities Center (GIAC)

Many of GIAC’s services have been reduced since the end of April  — including youth programs through the summer — due to budget cuts.

There will be no after school programs for youths, pre-teens or teens through at least the end of June.

Other service reductions for youth at GIAC include no summer camp in July or August. There will be no 50-served meal program for youth or families, nor will volunteers be accepted for any GIAC programs.

Service reductions for pre-teen and teen programs include no Conservation Corp for high school teens during the school year and middle school teens in the summer. There will be no Girls Empowerment Group, Bitty Box Screen Printing program, Teen Catering program, Skateboard program, Urban Art program, Let’s Read program, commercial sexual exploitation of children intervention program, Girls Firebirds AAU Basketball program, nor Teen Summer Jobs Experience/CIT program. 

GIAC will also have severely minimized programming and outing trips for adults and seniors.

There are no recreation programs being offered, including youth and adult boxing, family trips nor summer teen and adult basketball leagues.

The Gus Macker and GIAC Festival of Nations will not be held this year.

There will be no general support for walk-in residents. The GIAC facility will be closed and the public cannot rent out the facility nor can they access the public bathroom area. GIAC basketball courts, the Alex Haley Municipal Swimming Pool and Max’s Wading Pool are closed for the summer.

Ithaca Youth Bureau

Program staff will not be available to support youth and families or connect them with resources in different settings.

There is no summer youth employment offered through Youth Employment Service (YES) because all YES staff are furloughed. The Tompkins County Summer Youth Employment Program was set to begin July 1.

Summer camps, summer programs and trips, and youth and adult Recreation Support Services — including camp inclusion, Iroquois program and teen club — are cancelled. 

The homework club and summer engagement program of the Paul Schreurs Memorial Program, after school program, summer academy and trips of the College Discover Program, and mentoring and summer activities part of the One-to-One Big Brothers Big Sisters program are cancelled.

Other Facility Reductions

The Cass Park Pool is closed for the season and there is no carousel at Stewart Park. Ithaca Bike Rental is closed. There will be no pavilion rentals at Stewart Park or Cass Park. Kayak rentals in Stewart Park may either be delayed in opening or not open at all.

Park restrooms are closed. Park playgrounds will open later in the season. Basketball courts and skate parks are currently closed.

The Newman Municipal Golf Course is closed for the season.

Parks, Vegetation and Street Trees

The Children’s Garden at the Youth Bureau is not being maintained. Maintenance of the Children’s Garden at Cass Park and roadside and trailside mowing has been reduced. 

The citizen pruner volunteer program has a delayed start in mid-June and will meet once each week rather than twice weekly.

There will be no or sporadic mowing and no trash pickup at Floral Ave park and trail along flood control channel; Cherry Street side flood control channel; Flood Control Levee; Brindley Park; Columbia Park; Hillview Park; Maple Grove Park; McDaniels Park; Mulholland Wildflower preserve entrance; Strawberry Fields Park; Ithaca City Cemetery; and Titus trail. There will be reduced trash pickup and mowing at all other parks.

Other City Service Reductions

Work on the Green new Deal, Greenhouse Gas Inventory and Public Arts Projects are paused.

The city will be slower in responding to engineering requests and complaints, transportation related issues, problems in parking garages, inquiries from properties in historic districts, speeding and other traffic violation complaints, and special requests like events and street closures. The city cannot accommodate traffic calming requests that require site visits. Exterior Property Maintenance complaints will not be followed up on.

The Ithaca Police Department will not offer distracted driving courses.

There are no Notary Public Services for members of the public.

The city also will not be able to retrieve stray shopping carts left around the community.

Madison Fernandez

Madison Fernandez is a contributing reporter at the Ithaca Voice. You can reach her by email at mfernandez@ithacavoice.com.