One vote separates Republican Tim Lattimore and Democrat Bob Nodzo from representing District 13 residents on the Cayuga County Legislature. The race for District 4 is also close with Republican Chris Petrus leading independent Grant Kyle by 24 votes. Absentee and affidavit ballots will be used to make final calls.
The Cayuga County Board of Elections will begin counting absentee ballots Tuesday, one week after Election Day, Democratic Commissioner Katie Lacey said Wednesday.
For the District 13 race, 67 absentee ballots were issued, of which 35 were to registered Democrats, 21 to Republicans, one to an Independence party member and 10 to no party. If all the Democratic ballots come back for Nodzo, Lattimore will lose the race for his third and final term.
Lacey said so far the office has received 34 ballots, but more were expected to come in the mail. The office accepts absentee ballots postmarked before Election Day.
Lattimore said he was glad to be up by one and not down by 100, but he feels that multiple factors were against him this campaign.
He did not like that Nodzo appeared on the "A line" at the top of the ballot, which he said is more visible than where his name was just below it. The order of rows on New York state ballots is based upon results of the most recent gubernatorial elections. With voters in Lattimore's district leaning Democrat, he also feels "being a little old Republican in a big Democratic town is tough."
While acknowledging that low voter turnout tends to work in his favor, he would have liked to see more people come to the polls. According to the state Board of Elections site, there are 1,900 active voters in District 13 as of Nov. 1, but about 600 people exercised their right to vote on Tuesday.
"I hope, when I say to voters, 'Your vote counts,' I really mean it," Lattimore said. "I had several people come in the office today saying that they went down and at the last minute they voted, and thank God they did, so I mean everybody should take notice in the process."
He thinks President Donald Trump may be affecting Republicans negatively, too, making people less likely to vote for anyone in his party.
Lattimore sent out letters asking for support from absentee ballot holders, so he's not giving up on the race yet. He plans to send a representative to the Board of Elections on Tuesday to watch the count.
Nodzo said he would like to be there for the absentee ballot count. Though down by one, he said he was feeling good overall. He called Tuesday night "surreal."
"My big thing was getting, not to be humiliated because I'm running against a lifetime politician," he said. "I really feel good on the initial outcome."
For the District 4 race, Lacey said 62 absentee ballots were issued. Based on the party breakdown, things look favorable for Petrus. There were 31 ballots sent to Republicans, 15 to Democrats and one to a Conservative. The remaining were sent to minor parties or those not affiliated with a party. Lacey said about 37 ballots had been received so far.
Besides absentee ballots, Lacey said the board did receive some affidavit ballots, which are cast by people who have not yet filed a new change of address. The board was starting to verify those on Wednesday.
Once the board knows what time it will begin counting absentee ballots next week, Lacey said the candidates and political parties will be notified.
"Some send representatives, and some don't," she said. "Usually the major parties send a representative. Candidates have a tendency to show up and pace in the hallway. I don't think they like to watch," she added, laughing.
AUBURN — Representatives from Auburn-area human service organizations spoke during a public hearing held during Wednesday night's Auburn Planning Board meeting about how money from the city's Community Development Block Grant helps their organizations.
Each year since 1994, the city of Auburn receives money through the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development to fund services and projects that benefit low-to-moderate-income city residents. Funding for human service agencies is capped by HUD at 15 percent of the city's grant funds, Senior Planner Tiffany Beebee said.
Tom Schuster, a board member and volunteer driver with SCAT Van, spoke during the hearing. He said that from 2015 to 2016, the number of riders who utilized the organization's transportation services increased by about 50 percent. In 2016, the organization gave transportation to almost 6,300 riders over 13,000 trips, Schuster said.
"There's a greater need for our services than there has been in the past," he said.
Schuster said the CDBG funds the company receives from the city helps make ends meet, as the transportation service has a limited budget of about $241,000.
The president of Chapel House's board of directors, James Breslin, said money the homeless shelter receives through the CDBG program has allowed staff to hire a case manager to help the 239 men who have come through during the last year.
"It has a huge impact, the money that the city graciously provides to Chapel House," he said.
On average, it takes about 29 days to get someone out of the shelter and into more permanent housing, whereas it used to take up to three months "just a few short years ago," Breslin said.
"There's a tremendous need for homeless services in the city," he said. "I know when you use the word 'homeless' that's a loaded term. When I think of the homeless, I think of someone's father, mother, son or daughter, friend or neighbor, men and women who have served in our armed forces. In short, they have a connection with someone else in the community."
Denise Farrington, the executive director of the Booker T. Washington Community Center, requested the city continue to allocate funds to the center. She said the center uses the money to fund an eight-week summer program for at-risk youths in the community.
"It's getting harder and harder to run for those eight weeks," she said. "We might have to cut it back to six weeks because a lot of people can't afford to pay. The last thing we want is the kids on the streets looking at our building wanting to come in."
Representatives from the Auburn Rescue Mission, the Auburn Human Rights Commission, Cayuga County Homsite Development Corporation and the Calvary Food Pantry also spoke during the hearing.
The feedback given at this public hearing, as well as a public meeting held in October and an online survey, will be incorporated into the city planning department's Annual Action Plan, which it submits to HUD on a yearly basis. The short survey can be found at surveymonkey.com/r/CDBG2018.
"The community participation allows us to determine how to spend the funds according to the community's needs and wants," Beebee said.
The state comptroller's office has released an audit on the Auburn Enlarged City School District's employee compensation and benefits practices that recommends improvements for certain aspects of payroll processing.
The report on the audit was announced in a press release Wednesday. Samples of the district's transactions were inspected from July 1, 2015, to July 5, 2017. According to the report, auditors found the district had generally taken proper actions to ensure compensation and benefits were accurately enacted, but they also had a couple of suggestions.
Though the district had efficient procedures and policies in place for employee payroll processing, the report said, the district hadn't formally set up steps to address processing outside of normal pay periods — like when employees don't turn in payroll information within an established deadline.
The report also said district officials were lacking policies or procedures on holding reviews and reconciliations of payroll withholding, contributions and deductions to make sure reports and calculations are correct.
The report cited the district's use of the Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES Central Business Office to process employee payroll as a good practice. Using the BOCES business office has allowed the district to "effectively and appropriately segregate incompatible duties related to payroll," according to the report.
The school district's corrective action plan, meant to respond to the comptroller office's concerns, was included in the report. The action plan was approved at a school board meeting in October.
On Sept. 1, the district began a lag period between the end date of a pay period and the payroll check date in order to ensure employees submit payroll information on time, according to the action plan.
In response to the comptroller office's recommendation to perform payroll reviews, random samples will be chosen to ensure correct reports and calculations will be done.
A few months after posting an anonymous online survey, the Auburn Police Department has received its first official feedback from the community.
Auburn Police Chief Shawn Butler said he decided to post two surveys in an effort to develop a strategic plan for the department.
First, in April, Butler and a team from Syracuse University created an employee survey that went out to all officers at APD. Then, in July, the department issued a public survey online.
The community web-based survey consisted of 21 questions: five questions requested demographic information, 14 questions were close-ended and two were open-ended. The close-ended questions used a rating scale of 1 (strongly agree) to 5 (strongly disagree) while the open-ended questions asked respondents to characterize the department in three words and to offer suggestions for improvement.
"We want to come up with a specific goal in order to create a road map for us going forward, and in order to do that we need to see what our employees think and then what the public feels — where we're doing well and where they feel that we're lacking," Butler said. "This is the first time that we've done something like this at the police department in my history, so I think it's very important to get input from everybody."
But Butler said the department didn't really receive the response it was hoping for.
According to the results from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, 662 residents completed most or all of the survey; of those 662 respondents, 93 percent identified as white.
Butler said he was disappointed by those results as the department was looking to get a "good cross section" of the city's demographic. He said the department even extended the deadline and worked with the Human Rights Commission and Harriet Tubman Social Justice Task Force to try to get the minority community more involved.
"Unfortunately, if you look at the demographics, I don't think we hit our goal," he said. "A small percentage identified as minority. That's unfortunate because we need everybody's input."
Keeping that in mind, Butler said he was pleased with the overall sentiment from the community, as 70 percent of respondents strongly agreed or agreed that APD ensures a safe environment, respects individuals' rights and treats people fairly. In addition, nearly 70 percent of the words used to describe the department were positive, including words like "professional, friendly, honest, brave and responsive."
But there was some room for improvement, as roughly 60 percent of respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed that APD performs an appropriate amount of foot patrols; 20 percent neither agreed nor disagreed.
Butler said the need for more foot traffic seems to be an overall sentiment nationwide.
"In the early 1990s, there was some major grant funding that supported (community policing) and I think it had excellent results," he said. "But as time goes on, that funding dries up, your calls for service go up and the guys and girls are locked in their cars going from call to call to call. So trying to find that balance of getting time to be more proactive than reactive is what I'm struggling with."
The Maxwell School also said it was unclear how the public felt about the department's openness to input, communication, explanation of actions and handling of calls. It recommended that APD should further investigate their effectiveness in those areas.
Lastly, there were some concerns about enforcement in the open-ended section of the survey, including complaints about lax traffic patrols and drug dealers in the area. There were also some negative words used to describe the department, including "incompetent, arrogant, lazy and racist."
"Are we perfect? Absolutely not, and I don't think anybody would say that we are," Butler said. "But we are pretty good."
Going forward, the police chief said he would like to find an outside facilitator to analyze the results and develop a strategic plan for the department.
"Our motto is, 'Expect excellence,'" Butler added. "I want the public to expect that from us. ... We're human and we make mistakes, but I want to take us to that next level."