November 6, 2003

City Approves '04 Budget, Cohen Vows Veto

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Last night, at a Common Council meeting in City Hall, the council passed the city’s budget for 2004. However, due to the absence of $29,000 for purchasing wind power in the budget, Cohen said he intends to issue a line-item veto, restoring funding to investment in the renewable energy source. The Common Council will have until Nov. 20 to react to Cohen’s veto.

Ron Kamen, director of New York Operations for Community Energy, attended the meeting unannounced. At the meeting, he spoke to the Common Council to make his case.

‘If Not Now, Then When?’

“If not you, then who? If not now, then when?” Kamen asked, adding that there are environmental dangers posed by other energy sources, including oil, coal and nuclear power.

Community Energy is “the leading marketer-developer of wind-generated power in the market,” according to its website. Kamen suggested that wind power has a potential to generate up to 10,000 mega-watts of energy in New York state, but it needs communities to purchase early on to reassure investors.


“I recommend that we spend $29,000 [on wind energy],” Cohen said. Spending this amount would result in Ithaca getting approximately 20 percent of its power from that source.

Not all members of the Common Council were enthusiastic about the tax increases that would result from this investment.

“I would like to [purchase wind power] by getting funds from some other place in the budget,” said Patricia Pryor (D-1st Ward).

No Vote

Since the mayor expressed his intention to alter the total expenditures in the budget, the Common Council opted not to vote on increasing taxes until the budget is worked out. Adding wind power into the budget would cause property taxes to be higher than projected in the motion scheduled for last night — which had property tax raised to $12.7526 per $1,000 of taxable property, an increase of slightly more than nine percent.

This increase would not apply to Cornell, which accounts for a significant portion of the $2,215,719,400 worth of tax exempt property.

The taxes were initially proposed to be substantially higher, at 14.11 percent, but the Memorandum of Understanding between the University and the city allowed for the tax increase to be lower in the budget, while preventing virtually all layoffs.

Other items discussed during the meeting included the passage of a local law allowing tax exemption for capital improvements to residential buildings, the adoption of a public art plan for the city and a 50 percent increase in carousel fees to 75 cents.

Archived article by David Hillis