At its regular meeting Tuesday night, the Tompkins County legislature voted unanimously to approve its 2021 budget, WSKG news reports.  The total budget, at just under $52.4 million dollars, is 6 percent less than the 2020 budget.

The budget reflects decreased revenues in the current year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  County comptroller Rick Snyder remarked in his report that county sales tax revenue in October was down 11.88 percent from the same month last year.

County Administrator Jason Molino showed data that revealed that county payroll expenses increased by more than $1.6 million dollars during the period from March to November 2020.  This increase was due to regular payroll and overtime expenses.

 

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The Tompkins County Public Library will begin a limited reopening on December 1st after being closed to the public for months amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Ithaca Voice reports that the library was able to continue its services throughout the past few months through ebooks, virtual programming, and lobby and curbside pickup. The library will now extend its services and allow the public back inside with an “express browsing service.”

This service will allow guests to browse in 30-minute sessions and requires all visitors to remain 6 feet apart from other guests. A limited number of people will be allowed in at a time and masks are required in the facility at all times.

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Even in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, volunteers at the Newfield Good Neighbor Community Fund continue to serve those who are in need of assistance.

Tompkins Weekly reports that one of the Good Neighbor Fund’s main programs, the food pantry, is still helping Newfield residents that cannot cover all their food needs.  The food pantry operates as a drive-up service on the first and third Wednesday of the month at the Newfield Methodist church.

Mary Beth Gehring-Smith, Chair of the Good Neighbor Fund board of directors, states that her organization also raises funds to assist people who are in need of short-term emergency financial assistance.  She also says that her organization is projecting a difficult fall and winter, with more members of her community requesting assistance.  She hopes that, despite a cut in a grant from the Food Bank of the Southern Tier to the food pantry, that generous donors will fill the gap.  More information about the fund can be found at NewfieldCGNF.com

 

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Cornell University has updated its travel policy guidelines for students after the recent spike in coronavirus cases.

Ryan Lombardi, Vice President for student and campus life, wrote in an email to students that unnecessary travel is “strongly discouraged,” and highlights that many cases on campus from the last two weeks could be attributed to travel.

Students currently living on campus are required to stay home after Thanksgiving break.  Those students living off-campus may return after Thanksgiving Break but must follow new guidelines depending on the state they are traveling from.  Online-only instruction resumes on Monday, November 30th.

If students are returning to Ithaca from “contiguous” states: meaning  New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New Jersey, Vermont and Massachusetts, they cannot use the campus for up to five days after their arrival.  Instructions are to have a COVID test within their first two days of arrival and then a second one their fourth day after.  If both the first and second tests are negative, they can then use facilities on campus.

Students from non-contiguous states and most countries outside the U.S. must follow these same regulations, but also receive a negative test prior to their return, complete a New York State traveler health form and quarantine for five days before returning to campus.

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Looking at the local COVID-19 caseload, the latest numbers, released today from the Tompkins County health department, indicate that there are 18 additional positives, and 11 new recoveries. According to the County Health Department, that leaves 144 active cases of COVID-19 in Tompkins.

In Schuyler County, there are 4 new cases and 33 active cases of COVID-19 reported as of today, according to their Health Department.  Listeners should note that on Wednesday, the Schuyler health department reported that two employees of the Kookalaroc's (coo-KAH-lah-roxs) Bar and Grill in Watkins Glen tested positive for COVID.  Patrons who visited the bar in the last 14 days are instructed to get tested for COVID.  More instructions can be found at this website: schuylercounty.us/166/Public-Health.

Contributing writing:  Phoebe Harms and Esther Racoosin