Syracuse Common Councilors Monday unanimously approved Mayor Ben Walsh’s first city budget. The $245 million spending plan didn’t stray much from Walsh’s original proposal.
Majority Leader Steven Thompson said aside from some changes in school spending prompted by the state budget, lawmakers agreed to Walsh’s budget blueprint. It is a spending plan that includes an $11 million deficit, something that was an accomplishment for the first-year mayor. Early projections showed the city facing a more than $25 million deficit.
“Let’s face it, the numbers he was looking at it before, $26 million versus $11 million. That’s a big change, so we were impressed with that,” said Thompson.
The spending plan keeps taxes steady, and among other things pays for more police body cameras, new police and firefighter classes, infrastructure improvements and the creation of a Municipal Violations Bureau.
That $11 million dollar deficit will be wiped out by the city’s dwindling savings account.
Lawmakers also agreed to let the city look for help from the State Financial Restructuring Board, a panel that offers recommendations to help struggling local government’s deal with fiscal problems. Walsh said it has helped cities like Rochester and Albany figure out ways to save money.
“The financial restructuring board is a resource, an asset for us. One that will provide us with recommendations that are non-binding,” said Walsh. “So we can choose to accept them, and if we do we have $5 million at our disposal to implement those recommendations. If we disagree with them, we go no further.”
Walsh said any help is welcome, as more projected deficits loom.
“I see this as a step in the right direction in terms of developing a collaborative relationship with the council to work our way out of our fiscal challenges. But they are still very real. Until we’re operating in the black, I won’t see it as a true success,” said Walsh.