Ithaca Common Council approves controversial funding agreement with Cornell University
The council voted to pass the agreement nine to one. The funding duration was amended to 15 years instead of 20 years.
Alderperson Cynthia Brock, who voted against the measure, argued as costs for the city go up, the $4 million will have less and less of an impact as years go on.
“Definitely towards 15 years, by the end of that, it will have a very minor role in our budget,” Brock said. “Further tying our hands and our city in terms of our ability to support the community.”
Another source of contention with the agreement was that it restricts the city from litigating against Cornell to change the university’s tax-exempt status. Brock argued for removing that restriction from the agreement. But council members who were part of the negotiation said that Cornell would not agree to that, and added that the agreement still allowed for legislative change.
Alderperson Jorge DeFendini said he feels Cornell should be paying more to the city, but added the risk of renegotiating the deal and stalling the city’s budget process was too high.
“I'm not happy with this deal. I'm not happy at all. And I'm not going to stop fighting Cornell University, because they are robbing us,” DeFendini said. “But we need to make sure that our constituents are taken care of. And so that's why, hesitantly, I am taking this deal.”
In a statement released shortly after the vote, Cornell’s Vice President for University Relations Joel Malina said Cornell “greatly appreciates tonight’s vote.” The amended agreement will now go to the Cornell Board of Trustees for consideration.