The proposed 2014 budget for Tompkins County was presented to lawmakers. Tamara Lindstrom tells us what's in store for the year ahead and how the Affordable Care Act affects the budget.
TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y. -- The proposed 2014 budget for Tompkins County brings some good news for residents, relatively speaking.
"To the average homeowner in Tompkins County, it means an extra $21 next year to get the same kind of services they're accustomed to getting from the county," said County Administrator Joe Mareane.
The 3.5 percent tax levy increase means maintaining services, while Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit, Tompkins County Area Development and TC3 will all see increased funds, as will the Tompkins County Library.
"The public library, which is a real treasure in this community, has experienced a major structural deficit. And in this budget, we make a major down payment in helping them resolve that structural deficit," Mareane said.
It's a small step toward recovery for some agencies that have been stripped to the bone the last few years.
"I'm pleased that we were able to begin to fix some of the problems that we all knew existed and we have a plan moving forward for the next four or five years to be able to strengthen the library, which is an obvious big deal for county residents," said Tompkins County Legislator Jim Dennis.
The proposed budget comes in below the legislature's goal of a four percent tax levy increase, due in large part to big relief in some unexpected places.
"Medicaid has been a very difficult situation for counties since 1965. It's gone up and up and up. This year, we are projecting a small decline in Medicaid because of the Affordable Care Act," Mareane said. "For us, it's about $350,000 in ongoing savings. And that, for a county of our size, is a pretty significant reduction."
Pension costs are also slightly down for 2014, after dramatic increases each year since 2009.
While the economy begins to stabilize, county planners remain cautious.
"There were some youth programs that were requested, expansions of programs. We weren't able to do that," Mareane said. "The mantra this year was we are in maintenance mode. We are not in expansion mode. So that was the rule we followed, so not everything was funded."
Decisions now left to the Legislature to finalize.
The public is invited to an informational meeting on the budget October 17th.
If you'd like to see the entire draft, visit www.tompkins-co.org.