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Common councilors try to better understand Syracuse's fiscal problems

Syracuse common councilors are trying to get a clearer snapshot of the city's fiscal problems. Lawmakers have been holding a series of meetings to try to figure out how the council can take a more proactive approach to dealing with an impending budget implosion.

Every few weeks the Syracuse Common Council decides to spend money. For example, this week it approved more than $2.5 million over three years to replace parking meters that have become obsolete.

Lawmakers say what would really help them make these decisions is a clearer look at just how much money is in city coffers, what's been promised for certain projects and what city departments are forced to spend.

Finance Committee Chairwoman Kathleen Joy says there are items they aren't sure just how hard to push.

"We've been holding for a while," Joy said.

Joy mentioned proposed improvements to City Hall and the City Hall Commons totaling about $200,000 of work.

"We have to decide 'Do we need to spend that right now?' But we don't want to be penny-wise and pound-foolish either," Joy said. "So we have to look at every single expenditure and we have to determine if it's the right time to spend it, if at all."

Lawmakers have a role to play in the current fiscal crisis, according to Joy, and they won't rule out any creative idea that would help the city's bottom line. Consolidation of the city police department and other local law enforcement agencies into a metropolitan police agency is one example of a creative way to save some money.

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner is warning that the city of Syracuse will be out of money in two years.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.