Pandemic Prompts Possible 12% Budget Cut In Tompkins County

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TOMPKINS COUNTY, NY (WSKG) – Municipalities in New York State are making decisions on their 2021 budgets. In Tompkins County, a legislative budget committee had its first meeting on next year’s budget this week.

County Administrator Jason Molino says the federal $600 weekly unemployment benefit helped the local economy.

Molino explained the benefit increased sales tax revenues. Now that the benefit has ended, Molino predicts sales revenue for August and September will be lower.

Sales tax revenue is the county’s second largest source of revenue, and next year’s budget proposal assumes an eight percent decline.

Celia Clarke/WSKG

Tompkins County Administrator, Jason Molino making budget presentation, September 14, 2020. (Celia Clarke/WSKG)

Overall, the county faces 12 percent in budget cuts. Committee chair Martha Robertson blames joblessness.

“The numbers are probably going to obscure some real misery, a sort of invisible misery in this community. We still have almost ten percent unemployment,” Robertson said.

Historically, the county’s unemployment rate is one of the lowest in the Southern Tier. The pandemic hasn’t changed that but unemployment has tripled since July, 2019 to 9.9 percent. At the peak of the lock down last April, the county saw an unemployment rate of over 10 percent.

The budget is structure to reduce the payroll without layoffs.  Instead, 18 workers have been offered other county jobs.

The committee will review the budget over the next month or more. A budget is expected to be approved by the whole legislature in November.