Budget Committee begins review of 2018 spending plan

Tompkins Weekly Staff

Photo by Kelsey O’Connor / The Ithaca Voice
The Tompkins County Legislature during a meeting.

Days after Tompkins County Administrator Joe Mareane gave the Legislature his recommended 2018 budget, legislators began reviewing the proposed spending plan.

The Expanded Budget Committee heard department and agency presentations – the Board of Elections, County Attorney, Office for the Aging, District Attorney, and the Human Services Coalition – in starting a review process that is expected to extend through most of October.

Some highlights from the presentations include:
— Tompkins County District Attorney Matt Van Houten has requested more than $195,000 in new target funding as part of his budget for two additional assistant DAs – new attorneys who would focus on duties in the local justice courts. If granted, that would increase the prosecutorial staff to 10.
Van Houten said the additional staff, in part, would help his office manage a very heavy workload including many serious cases, provide needed support for alternatives-to-incarceration efforts, and improve due process for those facing criminal charges.

— The Human Services Coalition has requested $20,000 in target funding to increase its Continuum of Care Coordinator to full-time, a position that oversees planning and initiatives related to the issues of housing and homelessness. For HSC-supported agencies, the administrator’s budget recommends more than $18,000 in one-time funding to restore weekend hours at the Ithaca Rescue Mission’s Friendship Center, $50,000 for the second year of funding for the Continuum of Care Transitional Housing Plan, and more than $16,000 to support seven additional daycare slots for DSS families at the Downtown Ithaca Children’s Center. Not included in the administrator’s budget are over-target requests to restore Community Dispute Resolution Center funding to its 2016 level, and additional funding for the Ithaca Health Alliance and Women’s Opportunity Center.

— The Office for the Aging has requested $20,000 in ongoing funding to support a 5-percent increase in hourly rates for home care contractors, an expense not recommended by the county administrator. Noting that her office typically attempts to raise such rates by 3-percent each year, Director Lisa Holmes cautioned that raising rates without additional funds decreases the number of available home care service hours.