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Negotiations stall over multi-million dollar funding deal between Ithaca, Cornell University

Cornell University is at odds with the city of Ithaca over a multi-million dollar funding agreement.
Vaughn Golden
Cornell University is at odds with the city of Ithaca over a multi-million dollar funding agreement.

Negotiations over a multi-million dollar agreement between Cornell University and the city of Ithaca appear to be hitting a snag.

Cornell currently contributes $1.6 million a year to the city of Ithaca as part of an agreement that’s set to expire at the end of June 2024.

Ithaca Mayor Laura Lewis indicated she believes negotiations between the city and Cornell have “not progressed." She intends to move forward with next year’s budget planning without the university’s contribution.

“As the City enters the 2024 budget cycle, it will need to plan for a budget without Cornell's support, and so will start the 2024 budget process with a $1.6 million hole in the budget,” Lewis wrote in a statement.

Lewis added that the city’s negotiators had initially asked Cornell for $8 million a year. That’s, by the city’s estimate, a quarter of what Cornell would pay in property taxes if it weren’t tax exempt.

Cornell Vice President of University Relations Joel Malina said even though there’s nothing requiring the school to strike a deal, they don’t intend to walk away entirely.

“It is our strong intent to finalize a deal,” Malina told WSKG in an interview Thursday. “It would be a long-term deal for the citizens of the city of Ithaca. We are not thinking about that sort of an outcome.”

Malina said the university’s latest offer is approximately $3.1 million a year over 20 years with built-in adjustments for inflation.

The university recently announced it would increase its contribution to Ithaca city schools from $500,000 to $650,000 a year.

Vaughn Golden has been reporting across New York since 2016. Working as a freelancer while studying journalism and economics at Ithaca College, Vaughn has reported for a number of outlets including the Albany Times Union, New York Post, and NPR among others. Prior to coming to WSKG full-time, Vaughn was a reporter for the Watertown Daily Times. Vaughn now covers government and politics for WSKG.