The 2016 budget for Tompkins County is rich with numbers, percentages, figures and statistics, but honing in on a few notable areas shows an overall sense of progress for the community.
Next year’s budget is $171,075,993, a 0.8 percent increase in spending possibilities from the 2015 budget, with a tax rate of $6.73 per $1,000, compared to a rate of $6.86 per $1,000 in 2015. Homeowners will also see a property tax increase of $12.39 on a median-valued home, according to a news statement from the legislature office.
County Administrator Joe Mareane noted that the 2016 budget will address structural deficit issues in the public library, adding several positions to various areas; begin a new jail re-entry program, add funding to the Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit bus and increasing investment in staff training. Other areas that saw a significant change in expenditures are overtime pay, salaries and mandates like child care and pre-K and early intervention.
Salary and wages are estimated to see an increase of approximately 1.28 percent from 2015, while overtime will increase by approximately 11.43 percent. Pete Meyers of the Tompkins County Workers Center said this increase in overtime may be good news for county employees who often work beyond prescribed hours.
Pre-K and early intervention are expected to increase by approximately 15.6 percent, while mandated child care is expected to decrease by approximately 28.4 percent.
A full listing of expected changes can be found on the Tompkins County legislation website.
The 2016 budget was approved Nov. 17. Each year, Mareane and Kevin McGuire, the county’s budget coordinator, manage the budget process, including developing a recommended budget for presentation to the legislature that is based on request from County departments and agencies. Mareane said they look at the information submitted and make recommendations from there.
Mareane said the 2016 budget had a better foundation than past years because the county is seeing a decrease in mandated programming costs. Mandated programs are public services like medicaid and child care. Mareane said after the 2008 recession, many people in the county had to rely on such programs to get by.
“It’s only now that we’re beginning to see a measurable decline in the number of people in Tompkins County who are relying on temporary assistance and other programs that we provide,” Mareane said. “Not only is it good for them because they’re less reliant on public services, but it’s also good for us and that our costs are going down.”
Mareane said most county employees are expected to see a 2.25 percent increase in salary for 2016, the same rate they saw in 2015 and can expect to see again in 2017.
“It comes off of a very restrained, long-term contract that reflected the very difficult times that we were in,” Mareane said, referring to the recession just before 2010 — a year in which there was no increase in salary.
For overtime pay, Mareane said most of that will go to public safety workers, specifically the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Department. Mareane said overtime for the sheriff’s department has been routinely under budget, so this year’s 11.43 percent increase will help make up for that and align more with what’s realistic for that office.
The decrease in mandate child care, as well as the 1.67 percent decrease in Medicaid, shows a steady betterment of the community, Mareane said, as mandate child care refers to child abuse and neglect services. These areas have seen a decrease in cases, leading to needing less money. The increase in Pre-K and early intervention is for aiding special needs children, showing an increased attention to those services. Medicaid costs are down because of savings associated with the Affordable Care Act.
“Our No. 1 goal is being able to sustain current levels of service, so in terms of community impact, this will allow us to continue providing services that people have become accustomed to,” Mareane said. “So that in itself these days is an achievement.”
This article originally appeared on ithaconomy.com