JOSEPH TO CHAIR LEGISLATURE IN 2004
By an 11 - 3 vote of his fellow Legislators, Tim Joseph (D - Town of Ithaca,
West) was elected to a third annual term as Chair of the Legislature. Joseph's
nomination was brought forward by Martha Robertson (D - Dryden) and seconded
by Frank Proto (R- Danby, Caroline). Richard Booth (D - City of Ithaca),
Dan Winch (R- Enfield, Newfield), and Michael Lane (D - Dryden) voted against
Joseph. Kathy Luz Herrera (D - City of Ithaca) was absent. Booth stated that
his no vote was a result of his deep disagreement with the County's budget
decisions for 2004.
Michael Lane (D - Dryden) was elected to the seat of Vice-Chair, also for
the third time. Joseph nominated Lane, saying that he respected the differences
on the Legislature and felt that it was appropriate to have those differences
represented in the leadership.
Joseph delivered an address that painted a slightly brighter picture of County
finances and operations in 2004, due to an improving economy and renewed
efforts to reduce or stabilize costs. However, he emphasized that everything
the County does to further consolidate, streamline, and economize could be
futile if the State government refuses to undertake significant mandate relief.
County cost-cutting has been ongoing for three years, Joseph said, with $4
million in cuts to locally-controlled spending, while mandates costs have
risen by $11 million. This trend can't continue without the loss of core
County services within five years, he said.
Joseph said he believes the State's top leadership is neither willing to
raise taxes nor cut services, because such actions in an election year are
"dangerous to their political careers." What he would like to see is local
legislators and citizens make it equally politically dangerous for the State
officials to continue to push expenses down to the local level. Contact:
Tim Joseph, Chair of the Legislature, 274-5434, 277-2519.
HIGHER INCOME LIMITS FOR PROPERTY TAX EXEMPTIONS FAILS TO PASS
The Legislature was deadlocked on whether or not to increase the local income
limits for property tax exemptions for senior citizens and disabled persons.
The proposed new income limits would match those recently set by the New
York State Legislature. The annual income to receive the greatest exemption
- 50 percent off one's assessment for tax purposes - would have been raised
from a $20,000 to $24,000 limit. The higher income limits would have allowed
about 322 additional parcels to be eligible for exemptions, according to
the County Assessment Department, resulting in a $96,867 loss in property
tax revenue. The local income limits have not been changed since March 2001.
The measure failed by a 7 - 7 vote, but can be brought back to the Legislature
at a future meeting by anyone who voted against it, or by someone who was
not present for the vote. Kathy Luz Herrera was absent from tonight's meeting.
Contact: Michael Koplinka-Loehr, Chair, Government Operations Committee,
STATE HOMELAND SECURITY FUNDS WILL PAY FOR LOCAL EMERGENCY TRAINING
The Legislature voted to accept $58,433 in Homeland Security grant funds
from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice for training local emergency
responders in terrorism response. The money will go toward various training
exercises and courses that prepare responders to deal with Weapons of Mass
Destruction, hazardous materials, and terror attacks. In a related matter,
a maximum of $130,000, of which $56,740 has already been budgeted, was approved
to move equipment from the existing 911 dispatch center to the new Emergency
Response Center. Contact: Lee Shurtleff, Director of Emergency Response,
PLANNING DEPARTMENT LOOKS AT SMALL CITIES FUNDING
A public hearing on the County's upcoming application for a Community Development
Block Grant from the State's Small Cities Program was held before the Legislature
meeting. Although no one spoke, public comment is still welcome regarding
general housing, public facilities, and micro-enterprise needs in the County.
A second hearing will be held February 17 on an application for the funds.
Contact: Edward Marx, Planning Commissioner, 274-5560.
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