October 23, 2021

Cortland council accepts budget proposal

Todd R. McAdam/contributing photographer

The U.S. flag flies over downtown Cortland on in this Cortland Standard file photo.

Cortland’s Common Council tweaked Mayor Brian Tobin’s budget proposal, bringing it down to $21.4 million and reducing what could have been an 8% tax levy increase to 2% in a proposed budget it accepted Tuesday night.

“We didn’t want to cut the operating costs any more than we had to,” said Alderwoman Kathryn Silliman (D-2nd Ward).

The plan Tobin initially proposed would have increased spending 3% to $21.7 million from $21.05 million, and increased the property tax levy 8.5% to $9.56 million from $8.81 million.

However, aldermen cut several hundred thousand dollars spending to keep the proposed tax levy increase to 2%. The council, then, did not have to vote to break the state-mandated property tax cap, which kicks in if the increase goes above 2%.

However, specific numbers on what the property tax levy would be were not available this morning.

The council also accepted the proposed water and wastewater budgets, and voted to set public hearings for all of these proposed budgets for Nov. 5, prior to the regularly scheduled council meeting at which the council could vote to accept the budget.

The council also considered the future of the county recycling program, which the county government will take over Jan. 1.

One major change: Glass will have to be separated from other recyclables, said Renee Parks, the county recycling representative, and Charlie Sudbrink, county highway superintendent, who presented the planned changes to the council.

Since the city’s waste-hauling contract accepts only unsorted recyclables, the change at the county level would put city residents in a bind.

Alderwoman Kat McCarthy (D-1st Ward) pointed out that because the city has a mandatory recycling law, the burden of recycling glass would be placed on residents.

But aldermen, including Thomas Michales (R-8th Ward), recognized that many residents would instead throw out glass rather than take it to the county recycling center themselves.

Mayor Brian Tobin directed Chris Bistocchi, superintendent of public works, to investigate how the city could renegotiate its recycling pickup agreement to accommodate glass separation, as well as how much that might cost.

Bistocchi estimated the additional cost at $70,000 a year, but said that this number was his own figure, and he would have to ask the contractor for a more precise estimate.

Parks and Sudbrink also said the county would change its policy on accepting plastic. The county recycling center now accepts all types of recyclable plastic — types 1 through 7 — but starting Jan. 1, it will accept containers with lids or caps, regardless of type, but not the lids or caps.. That will also apply to the lids of tin cans and tops and caps other types of containers, Parks said.

Aldermen also expressed concern that the changes were not being sufficiently advertised. Sudbrink said the county would put out a flier with trash haulers and was also looking at mailing information to residences.