Cornell to contribute $425K annually to Town of Ithaca

Cornell has agreed to provide the Town of Ithaca with a $425,000 annual voluntary contribution for 10 years, through June 2034. The historic agreement will take effect July 1.

“Last fall the Town Board identified approaching Cornell for an annual voluntary contribution as a priority, and discussions were initiated to augment support for services and initiatives that, by default, are of mutual benefit to town residents and Cornell,” said Rod Howe, supervisor for the Town of Ithaca. “We are pleased to have negotiated a 10-year agreement that builds on our long-standing, interrelated and cooperative relationship.”

The discussion was timely given the increase the town will be contributing for fire protection. The increase resulted from Cornell’s recent $4 million annual voluntary contribution agreement with the City of Ithaca. While $300,000 of the town contribution is to be used toward general services, the contribution also includes $125,000 for improvements to town-owned infrastructure, to be selected by the town from a list of projects that will be jointly developed by the town and the university. The total $425,000 annual voluntary contribution will be adjusted for inflation each year.

The agreement was approved unanimously by the Town of Ithaca Board of Supervisors on June 10; Howe and Cornell President Martha E. Pollack signed the agreement on June 13.

“This first-ever voluntary contribution agreement is a major accomplishment for the town and Cornell and further strengthens our important relationship,” said Joel M. Malina, Cornell’s vice president for university relations. “The fact that it’s a 10-year agreement will ensure a consistency of dedicated dollars over that long-term time frame.”

The agreement acknowledges the importance of the town and Cornell to each other and the benefits that each receives from the other’s strength and prosperity. About 40% of Cornell’s Ithaca campus lies within the Town of Ithaca, Malina said. The agreement states: “Given the significant fiscal and regulatory pressures experienced by both entities, the parties wish to affirm their desire to work together in a cooperative fashion to address issues of mutual concern.”

The infrastructure improvements could include work involving roads and bridges; stormwater systems; natural areas, parks and open spaces including trails; sidewalks and parking garages and lots; and electric vehicle charging equipment.

The agreement also states that the university will encourage and facilitate opportunities for its students, faculty and staff to offer their voluntary and professional services to the town “to the fullest extent possible.”

Including its new voluntary contribution to the Town of Ithaca, and its $4 million voluntary contribution to the City of Ithaca, Cornell will dedicate more than $30 million each year to support critical community priorities such as:

  • Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit (TCAT) bus service;
  • the Ithaca City School District (ICSD), a contribution that increased by 30% in 2023;
  • the Community Housing Development Fund;
  • numerous local nonprofits, including a partnership with the Child Development Council; and
  • a range of municipal-like services supporting the Ithaca campus, such as public safety, snow removal, sidewalk construction and paving.

Cornell’s presence in Tompkins County also generates a multitude of indirect financial benefits(totaling more than $2.4 billion annually) that helps to make the Ithaca region economically vibrant – stemming from payroll, visitor and student spending, purchasing, construction, research funding spent locally, and capital raised by incubators, to name just a few. And despite its tax-exempt status, in 2023 the university paid nearly $9 million in property taxes and municipal fees, including $2.1 million in school taxes paid to ICSD.

Media Contact

Kaitlyn Serrao