Budget 2019


All city budget documents can be found here: https://www.cityofithaca.org/427/City-Budget

You can watch the mayor’s presentation of the budget starting at 1 hour, 12 minutes into this video. But here’s a quick overview courtesy of my own Twitter thread:

  • City of Ithaca tax LEVY will increase 2.91%. Below the tax cap. But the tax RATE will decrease 4.45%
  • City of Ithaca still has the 2nd highest tax rate in the county. Second to Groton. About in the middle for New York State
  • New 7-person DPW crew! Focused on road reconstruction and other infrastructure. Phased in March 1. It’s a $450,000 item.
  • Also purchasing thermal striping equipment for more durable street marking.
  • Ice jam effluent piping to reduce ice jams
  • TCAT contribution increased by $73,000 (as requested by TCAT and must be matched by Tompkins County and Cornell)
  • Same number of police officers and firefighters in 2019. That includes continuing funding for 4 federally grant-funded firefighters that the city will now have to pay for.
  • Youth Bureau will buy goose waste removal equipment. Also softball field improvements and tennis court resurfacing. Youth Bureau employees will also get living wage increases
  • GIAC will get living wage increases as well
  • The mayor is proposing a 2% salary increase for Council (from $10,141 to $10,344). Wants to peg increases at 2% annually
  • Increase funding for the Community Outreach Worker and to TCAD. 1.5% increases for Human Services Coalition, Southside Community Center, and Community Science Institute. $15,000 for Gorge Safety Program. Another $50,000 for the LEAD fund
  • New spending: Proposing childcare for city meetings at $5,000. Funding for REACH Project at $50,000. $3,000 for Tompkins County Public Library. $5,000 for wayfinding signage. $10,000 for the Tompkins Center for History and Culture
  • General fund revenues increasing $2.5 million this year but the mayor is proposing $2 million increased spending. $500,000 less in general fund draw
  • Increased revenues come in part from $670k more in property tax intake, $768k in sales taxes, $630k building permits
  • Review of stormwater utility: fee that hits more properties. Property tax rate would be 49 cents higher without the fee. 27% of the fees paid by tax-exempt entities (16% from Cornell). BUT City continues to pay $500k for stormwater-related activities.
  • Proposing two-tiered fee structure. 1-, 2-, 3-family homes pay $57/year ($9 increase). Other properties get 81% increase. Will bring in $531k, closing the funding gap. 97% of residential properties will pay less than if money was collected via property tax
  • Taxable property now makes up 45% of value of properties in City of Ithaca due to rising values and increased development. Used to be as low as 33% not too long ago. Cornell of course has 85% of the tax-exempt property in the City.
  • Taxable assessed value in the City increased from $1.89 billion to $2.04 billion (7.7%) Chart of distribution of taxable properties over the years
  • Debt service payments increasing; outstanding debt still high; water treatment plant biggest project in history. NYS aid continues to be flat for the past 12 years
  • Business is good in the City of Ithaca Graph showing rising sales tax revenue since 2006
  • Trash collection has run at a deficit with respect to trash tag revenue, so mayor is proposing a 75 cent increase per tag. Yard waste tag cost will remain the same

Requests Above the Mayor’s Budget

The mayor’s budget is a proposal that must be passed by Common Council. Along the way departments of City Hall may make requests of us to fund items that were not included in the mayor’s budget or that came up after the budget was formed.

The mayor’s budget is already at the state-imposed tax levy cap of a 2.91% increase, although municipalities can vote to exceed it. Every $100,000 we add to the budget increases the tax rate by 5 cents, increasing the average homeowner’s annual city tax expense by $11.

Here are some of those requests this year:

    • Police Department
      • $148,140 for 2 more officers
    • Fire Department
      • $24,000 for confined space training
      • $12,500 for special event staffing
      • $153,000 for deputy fire chief
    • GIAC
      • $15,176 for food program cook/manager
    • Public Works
      • $40,000 for 1-ton dump truck
      • $110,000 for 5 cubic yard dump truck
      • $55,000 for 1-ton fuel truck
      • $85,000 for a mini-excavator
      • $250,000 for sewer camera and van (used to locate breaks)
      • $596,000 via increased water and sewer rates for water/sewer crew
    • Planning
      • $56,000 for additional hours for planning staff
    • Public Information and Technology
      • $45,405 for IT support staff
    • Human Resources
      • $35,000 for climate survey (things like morale, not earth climate)
    • City court
      • $25,000 (to be matched with $25,000 from the County) for mental health court coordinator


Common Council will be holding a number of meetings in the coming weeks to get feedback from the public and speak with department heads in City Hall. Many departments will be making requests for spending above what the mayor has proposed in his budget (called requests above the mayor’s budget, or RAMBs).

Date/Time Departments
Wednesday, October 3, 2018, 6:00 p.m. Mayor – Presentation of 2019 Budget at the October Common Council Meeting
Thursday, October 11, 2018, 6:00 p.m.
  • Public Hearing #1
  • Council Q&A, Review of Budget Process
  • Public Safety
    • Includes: Police Department and Fire Department
  • Public Information and Technology/Records
Wednesday, October 17, 2018, 6:00 p.m.
  • Youth Services
    • Includes: Youth Bureau and GIAC
  • Attorney’s Office
  • Planning, Building and Economic Development
  • Community Services
    • Includes: Southside Comm. Center, Human Services Coalition, Tompkins County Area Development, Community Science Institute, SPCA
Thursday, October 18, 2018, 6:00 p.m.
  • DPW, Infrastructure and Transit
    • Includes: TCAT, Engineering, Streets & Facilities, Parking, Commons, Water & Sewer, Solid Waste, Sidewalks, Stormwater, IAWWTF
Wednesday, October 24, 2018, 6:00 p.m.
  • Public Hearing #2
  • Human Resources
  • Finance
    • Includes: Chamberlain and Controller
  • Mayor and Council
  • Capital Projects and Remaining Items
  • (If Time Allows: Council Discussion and Vote on Proposed Amendments)
Tuesday, October 30, 2018, 6:00 p.m.
  • Council Discussion and Vote on Proposed Amendments
  • Council Vote to Move Budget to November 7, 2018
Wednesday, November 7, 6:00 p.m.
  • Public Hearing #3
  • Vote on Budget

Visualizing the Budget

This is best viewed on a desktop browser. Hover over a segment of the chart to see how much that piece costs and what percentage of its parent category that spending makes up. Click to dive into that piece of the budget. Click the center to go back up a level.

Click here to enlarge

Chart source