ITHACA, N.Y. -- Called “the most unusual budget of our times” by Mayor Svante Myrick, the proposed 2021 budget anticipates more development, an unchanging tax rate and more losses in sales tax and parking revenue. Additionally, amid calls for defunding police and increasing funding for social services, Myrick proposed eight currently vacant police positions be defunded, and funds for the Southside Community Center be increased by 32%.
Myrick said he hopes the revenue losses are smaller in 2021 than in 2020, but that current projections put the losses around $2.35 million. To avoid a deficit, Myrick proposed defunding 28 positions throughout the government, reducing hours for seven positions and laying off two employees.
Additionally, the tax rate will stay the same at $11.77 per thousand of assessed property value, with a 7.23% tax levy increase due to rising assessments.
There was a steep drop in revenue after life in the city came to a halt amid the pandemic shutdown, but Myrick said quick action by the Common Council helped save nearly $2 million. The council froze hiring and furloughed more than 80 employees to implement cost-saving measures. However, Myrick said losses for the year are still at about $2.5 million.
Most of the 28 positions that are being eliminated are between the Department of Public Works and public safety. Eight vacant DPW positions will be defunded and two staffers will be laid off, plus the eight vacant police positions and three vacant Fire Department positions will be defunded.
When it comes to defunding the police positions and reducing strain on officers, Myrick said police chief Dennis Nayor is working with deputy chiefs on an operational efficiency plan, which will aim to find ways to prioritize violence prevention, deter property crime, emphasize officer wellness and safety and come up with a strategy for mutual aid reliance.
Myrick also suggested looking into reforming beat assignments to optimize geographic coverage, reform shift assignments to optimize coverage during peak calls and coming up with a system to categorize and prioritize call types. Additionally, the city continues to work with the county at the mandate of the state to deliver police reform that addresses police functioning and standards, culture, accountability and diversity in personnel.
The increase in funding to the Southside Community Center is also indicative of Myrick’s hope to have broader resources for people in need.
[We will be] investing in community supports that could lessen demand for intervention from police officers,” he said.
Up next in the budget process, the first of three public comment sessions is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 14 at 6 p.m.