Our County Legislature’s most important function is to allocate County resources in ways that meet the needs and values of our residents. Not surprisingly, when our needs are many and our resources are relatively few, our values tend to get short shrift.
Tompkins County now face increasingly scarce resources under a Federal government that shows little interest in our natural, social, and cultural environments, and a State government that sometimes seems determined to bankrupt our counties. We had to use 68% of last year’s county property tax levy to pay for unfunded mandates. Because of New York State’s “system” for funding Medicaid, we used fully 24% of last year’s property tax levy to pay for Medicaid services provided in Tompkins County. If Congressional Republicans succeed in implementing block grant funding for Medicaid, our county share of Medicaid funding could increase even more. What will we do then? We cannot increase property taxes by any substantial amount: our citizens are already burdened with very high property taxes, and that burden was effectively increased by the limitation on SALT deductions imposed by Federal tax legislation passed in 2017. At the same time, we cannot deny health care services to our residents who need them.
How we overcome the challenge of resource scarcity while maintaining the quality of life we all value will set our County’s course for years to come. I believe the key to meeting these challenges is to build a strong, sustainable, independent economy here in Tompkins County. That means not only increasing our tax base, but also using every means at our disposal to create jobs that pay a living wage or better, to promote our flagging retail sector, to underwrite construction of affordable and work force housing, and to expand public transit services throughout Tompkins County. When everyone in Tompkins County thrives, everyone contributes to growing county revenues.
We have a LOT of work to do!
Deborah’s recent Facebook posts are shared, below.