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City of Ithaca announces massive program cuts as pandemic deficit grows

As a result of the economic slowdown due to COVID-19 that started in March, the City of Ithaca is facing an unprecedented loss of revenues as a result of lower sales taxes, parking fees, and state aid, while at the same time experiencing unforeseen expenses.

The budget deficit for 2020 could range from $4 million to $13 million, representing anywhere from 6% to 20% of the City’s 2020 General Fund budget.

In late April, to address the projected shortfall, Common Council voted to temporarily furlough approximately 85 City employees, almost 20% of the City workforce. Compensation for City employees accounts for 72% of General Fund expenses, and while these cuts will reduce the City’s expenses and the projected budget deficit, they will also have a significant impact on City services and the City’s ability to respond to citizen concerns.

“We understand that these cuts will create hardships for many in our community, but there is no way to accommodate revenue losses of this magnitude without additional aid from the federal government or by making substantial cuts. It is impossible to furlough 1 out of every 5 employees without a corresponding loss of services. City staff are working harder than ever to streamline, innovate, and find creative ways to continue to provide high quality service to the community, and we thank you for bearing with us as we adjust to these difficult economic times,” officials said in a press release.

City residents, businesses, property owners, and others who come to the City of Ithaca to work, learn, and recreate are likely to be impacted by these cuts. This bulletin is being sent out to summarize the wide-ranging nature of the cuts and the service interruptions that can be expected, though these may change as New York continues to reopen. Furthermore, if the economic slowdown continues into 2021 and beyond, as we have every reason to expect that it will, there will likely need to be permanent reductions, which in many cases will differ from the temporary reductions listed below.

GIAC Program Reductions

–    No Youth Program Activities
o    No after-school program (through end of June) – Jumpers, Navigators,  STEAM, Computer Lab
o    No summer camp (July/August)
o    No 50-served meal program for youth/families
o    No volunteer placement of high school, college students or volunteers in GIAC programs.
o    No Summer Employment of Teens through YES, Learning Web, Workforce
–    No Pre-Teen and Teen Programs
o    No after-school Program through end of June
o    No Conservation Corp for high school teens during the school year and middle school teens in the summer
o    No Girls Empowerment Group for teen girls
o    No Bitty Box Screen Printing program
o    No Teen Catering Program
o    No Skateboard Program
o    No Urban Art Program
o    No Let’s Read – reading support program to help children get up to and surpass grade level reading
o    No commercial sexual exploitation of children intervention program
o    No Girls Firebirds AAU Basketball program
o    No Teen Summer Jobs Experience/CIT program
–    Severely minimized Adult 60+ Senior programs or outing trips
–    No host worksite for DSS Jobs Experience or Court Community Service
–    No Recreation Programs
o    No youth and adult boxing
o    No family trips
o    No summer Adult Basketball League
o    No Rashad Richardson Teen Summer Basketball League
–    No GIAC hosted community special events – Gus Macker and GIAC Festival of Nations
–    No general support of walk-in residents seeking general support with a myriad of needs

Youth Bureau Program Reductions

–    Summer Camps and programs are cancelled
–    Recreation Support Services youth and adult programming cancelled (including camp inclusion, Iroquois program, teen club, etc.)
–    Outings summer programs and trips are cancelled
–    Youth Employment Services (including job placements through YES Connect, Job Training, Summer Youth Employment) are cancelled
–    Paul Schreurs Memorial Program: homework club and summer engagement program (including trip) are cancelled
–    College Discover Program: afterschool programs and summer academy and trips are cancelled
–    One-to-One Big Brothers Big Sisters: mentoring is suspended and there are no summer activities
–    Program staff are not available to support youth and families or connect them with resources or advocacy in different settings

Facility Reductions

–    GIAC Facility shutdown for public
o    No GIAC facility rentals
o    GIAC public bathroom access closed
–    GIAC Basketball courts currently closed (no rims)
–    Alex Haley Municipal Swimming Pool and Max’s Wading Pool – closed for summer
–    Cass Park Pool – closed for the season
–    Ithaca Bike Rental is currently closed
–    No pavilion rentals at Stewart Park or Cass Park
–    Park Restrooms are currently closed, and once open, may be temporarily closed on short notice
–    Park Playgrounds/Fitness Equip will open later in the season
–    No Carousel at Stewart Park
–    Basketball courts and skate park are currently closed
–    Kayak rental in Stewart Park delayed opening, may not open at all this season
–    Newman Municipal Golf Course is closed for the season

Parks, Vegetation, and Street Trees

–    The Children’s Garden at the Youth Bureau is not being regularly mowed; gardens are not being maintained
–    The Children’s Garden at Cass Park has suspended all programming and summer camps, garden maintenance is being conducted by minimal staff and volunteers, mowing by Cass Park staff has been reduced.
–    Roadside and trailside mowing has been reduced. First mowing will be put off until mid to late June when tall vegetation is becoming a visual and physical obstruction.
–    Citizen pruner volunteer program has delayed start. Will start mid-June but will meet once per week instead of twice weekly. Response to requests for low tree pruning (ie sidewalk obstructions) will be delayed.
–    No mowing or sporadic mowing, and no trash pick-up, at the following locations:
o    Floral Ave park and trail along flood control channel
o    Flood control channel (Cherry St side)
o    Flood Control Levee
o    Brindley Park (behind island fitness and in front of Pete’s gas station)
o    Columbia Park
o    Hillview Park
o    Maple Grove Park
o    McDaniels Park
o    Mulholland Wildflower preserve entrance
o    Strawberry Fields Park
o    Ithaca City Cemetery
o    Titus trail (trail on the bank along N and S Titus Avenues)
–    Reduced trash pick-up/garbage can emptying, and mowing at all other parks

Other City Service Reductions

–    Very little capacity to respond to engineering requests and complaints, to conduct pedestrian/bike/traffic/parking/safety studies, or to produce work orders.
–    Slower to deal with transportation related issues
–    Cannot accommodate traffic calming requests that require site visits at this time
–    Slower response to problems in the parking garages
–    Delayed response to requests and inquiries from properties in historic districts
–    Reduced ability to respond to speeding and other traffic violation complaints
–    No distracted driving course through the Ithaca Police Department
–    Exterior Property Maintenance complaints cannot be followed up on at this time
–    Unable to retrieve stray shopping carts left around the community
–    Green New Deal work has been paused
–    Greenhouse Gas Inventory has been paused
–    Public Art Projects are on pause
–    Ability to respond to special requests like events and street closures is extremely limited
–    Notary Public Services for members of the public have been eliminated

Citizens should generally expect slower response time for inquiries of City staff, officials said in the statement.