Common Council Nov. 2019

Common Council listens to public comment on the budget at a previous meeting. 

Without many changes, the City of Ithaca's Common Council passed the 2020 budget Wednesday night, locking in a total allowance of $80,397,578 for the next year. 

With the new budget comes a tax rate of $11.71 per 1,000 of assessed property value, a slight rise from last year, although in his budget presentation Mayor Svante Myrick noted that the tax rate is still quite low relative to Ithaca's history. 

The budget itself is up from just over $76.4 million last year, and is still within the state's tax cap. The water rate is $8.67 per 100 cubic feet, an increase of 10 percent from last year, while the sewer rate remains constant at $5.80 per 100 cubic feet. 

The budget changes that carry the most public interest were regarding the city's Green New Deal. Council members had been initially hesitant to support extra funding for more Planning Department staff members who would be dedicated to working on the Green New Deal, but had softened their stances by the time the budget vote rolled around. In the end, money was granted for a second position to handle the Green New Deal work, though it will be set aside as "restricted contingency" funding and only be released to the Planning Department if it's approved by a separate council vote, which will be held if a need becomes obvious. The move represents a compromise of sorts, since the Planning Department had asked for funding for three positions total in order to accomplish the goals set out in Mayor Svante Myrick's Green New Deal. 

The City also added $15,000 to the community outreach worker position's allocation, pushing more funding behind a program that has garnered plenty of acclaim in its early stages. The city's lone community outreach worker currently, Tammy Baker, has used the role to venture into the community and better connect with those who are homeless and possibly suffering from addiction, helping them take advantage of services available here, whether it be housing, treatment or otherwise. 

The majority of the city's revenue is coming from property taxes, which make up 40.71 percent of the total estimated revenue, followed by sales taxes, making up just over 25 percent of revenue. Overall sales taxes collected are projected to increase significantly, from $14.9 million to $15.6 million. 

A small note: the percentage of tax exempt property in Ithaca slightly increased, to 55.71% from 55.47% in 2019. That's still down from the high water mark of 71 percent, recorded in 2001.

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