It’s budget season in Tompkins County and during its October meeting, Common Council got a first look at Mayor Svante Myrick’s proposed 2020 budget.
The new budget is slated to have an increase in the tax rate. The tax rate for 2020 will be $11.71 of assessed value, a 0.948 percent increase from 2019’s rate of $11.60 per $1,000 of assessed value. During his presentation of the budget proposal, Myrick pushed that overall, this is a decrease from years past when the tax rate continued to grow from 2002 through 2008. In recent years, the tax rate has managed to decrease while remaining the same for 2015 and 2016.
According to Myrick, there will be two separate budget lines for funding the Green New Deal Action Plan. The first part of the funding will go towards a senior level salaried position for a coordinator for the Green New Deal. The second budget line is going towards fund supplies, materials, outreach, research, and any needed create the climate action plan that will inform the environmental portions of the Green New Deal. Unlike the position of Sustainability Coordinator, Nick Goldsmith, the Green New Deal coordinator will not be a shared expense between the city and town of Ithaca. The new position is going to be a City dedicated position.
Some of the expenses the Town of Ithaca shares with the City are several small partnerships, with the sustainability coordinator serving as an example. The largest shared service between the two is the $3 million spent on fire services each year. Along with that, the City of Ithaca will continue sharing the cost of the Community Outreach Worker, Tammy Baker, with Tompkins County.
This year, though, they will be hiring another Community Outreach Worker, as shown in the new budget. Myrick was adamant, though, that the budget is in good enough shape to withstand any shifts or tweaks that come through during the discussion process over the next month.
“Our budget triples our investment in sustainability, [the budget] invests a record $200,000 in our affordable housing fund, and funds enormous amounts of infrastructure work - all with a very modest rate increase,” Myrick said. “In fact, the rate will be the second-lowest since the year 2003.”
The City of Ithaca will be allocating $10,000 to the Tompkins Center for History and Culture, $25,000 for the new mental health court, $5,000 for the Tompkins County Public Library and $10,000 will be going to the Hangar Theatre. There will be no salary increases for either the mayor or members of the Common Council. The first budget meeting is set to take place on Oct. 10 at 6 p.m. in the Common Council Chambers in City Hall.
Prior to the budget presentation, several members of the public addressed some of the things they would like to see included in the new budget.
Joe Wilson, a frequent commenter on environmental policy, spoke about how he, along with other community members, want to make sure there is some money allocated to start work on the Green New Deal. Willson also noted the success of the GND is in the hands of the mayor; the amount of time that is devoted to choosing the staff and placing it will determine if the GND is a success or a spontaneous failure.
Similarly, some commenters felt there should be funds in the new budget allocated for a coordinator to keep the City of Ithaca on track in accomplishing it’s climate goals. A member of the Ithaca Sunrise Movement came out to suggest there be more than one position for keeping the Green New Deal on track. However, some residents felt if more positions are added, they should not have to be under the Planning Department, instead establishing a separate sustainability department.