Cortland County lawmakers compromise on TC3 funding increase

CORTLAND, N.Y. – A committee of Cortland County lawmakers voted Thursday to increase the county’s financial contribution to Tompkins Cortland Community College by 2 percent.

That amounts to a roughly $34,000 increase from the county. Lawmakers also agreed Thursday to authorize TC3 to tap into the college’s fund balance for an additional 2 percent increase.

The “two and two” agreement was viewed as a compromise to TC3’s original request for a 4 percent increase from the county. Legislator George Wagner was the lone dissenting vote Thursday.

Budget and finance committee chair Kevin Whitney went into the meeting adamant that the county’s contribution to the college would remain flat.

“The easy road would be to advocate for a 4% funding increase, however, I can’t bring myself to support that,” Whitney said.

The county’s current contribution is close to $1.7 million, or about 4.3 percent of TC3’s $39 million operating budget.

TC3 President Carl Haynes urged Whitney and lawmakers to increase funding to the college, which he says has faced a roughly 10 percent decline in enrollment over the last four years while still providing an economic boon to the region.

“There are close to 1,000 people per year that participate in our corporate training programs,” Haynes said. “That’s a real economic lift for the area. That economic stimulus in terms of job creation and job retention, it’s hard to put a dollar value on that.”

Mike Lane, chair of the Tompkins County legislature, also addressed Cortland lawmakers Wednesday. He said he understood Whitney’s position but that both counties need to act on behalf of the college.

“None of us likes to have to pay more, but we know that in order to run an institution, costs go up every year,” Lane said. “You have to step forward and say, we have to take a risk. We can’t say no to everything.”

Legislator John Troy, who is not on the budget committee, also spoke to TC3’s economic impact in the community.

“Anything we put into the college is money well spent,” Troy said. “I think we are going to see our money come back to us in the long run.”