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Cortland Legislators to Hold Special Meeting on Tentative 2020 Budget

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The Cortland County Legislature will hold a special meeting Monday (October 7) night, where a tentative budget is expected to be submitted and filed.

Since the draft budget was presented last month, each department has been at work trying to cut their individual spending plans, with an ultimate goal of limiting the county’s anticipated multi-million dollar deficit.

A larger problem that contributes to this deficit concerns a pattern of year-to-year spending gaps, with deficit rollovers of anywhere between $1-1.5M each year.

Prior to the beginning of this year’s budgeting process, the county faced an estimated $9.24M deficit for 2020, based on the sum of annual allocations and the running debt tab from fiscal years prior. At last count, that number was reported to be worked down to under $3M.

Some legislators have indicated they’d like to see that number completely absolved by the end of the year, including Budget & Finance Department Chair George Wagner. Over the past month, hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional cuts have been proposed across the board to try and do so.

Monday night will likely produce a tentative budget that will give a clearer picture of what the actual 2020 spending plan may look like.

An official submission isn’t due until mid-December, but once a tentative budget is approved, it would serve as the official plan if no other plan or amendments were formally passed through by the full legislature by the end of the year.

The meeting will be held at 6:00 in the board room located on the third floor of the Cortland County Office Building, 60 Central Avenue.

Meanwhile, the Tompkins County Legislature last night (October 2) held its annual Community Budget Forum, where residents were invited to learn more about the recommended 2020 budget and make any comments or suggestions they have.

Of the 25 who attended, 14 people elected to speak during a public session that took more than an hour long. Their comments focused on three community services programs, which are all considered “over-target requests” not currently included in the County Administrator’s Recommended Budget:

Four speakers urged continued funding of Continuum of Care efforts to end homelessness, requesting an additional $50,000 in ongoing Target funding to succeed three years of one-time allocations that have supported a range of homelessness prevention programs.

Four others pushed for two programs of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County, including the Urban Outreach program, serving children in the city’s West Village and Northside low-income complexes for decades.

Several members of the Food Policy Council also spoke in support of a local Food System Plan, which would identify resources that exist in the community to achieve food security for all, uncover gaps that put residents and risk, and address a wide range of food-related vulnerabilities.

Administrator Jason Molino’s $191.8 million Recommended Budget would increase the property tax levy by 2.76% and decrease the county tax rate for the sixth consecutive year, due to a continued substantial increase in the county’s tax base.

A $2 increase in the County’s Solid Waste Annual Fee has been recommended.

The Expanded Budget Committee meets today and will begin making any recommendations to the administrator’s budget, the first of as many as three meetings before a submission is formally brought to the Legislature.

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