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Politics and Government

Syracuse mayor submits budget plan with no tax increases

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Ryan Delaney
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WRVO file photo
Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner deliver her state of the city address earlier this year.

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner has released what she calls a good, strong budget to the Common Council. The spending plan shows a city that’s emerging from years of fiscal uncertainty. 

The $674 million spending plan won’t raise taxes or water or sewer rates. There are no layoffs of city employees; and there’s increased revenue from building permits, parking garages and meters. There is still a $9 million deficit. But that pales in comparison to the numbers the mayor was throwing around a few years ago, when she suggested the city could go broke. 

"It’s still a deficit. But it shows the kind of tough decisions we’ve been making, so relatively speaking, we’re in a good place,” said Miner, in an interview with WRVO News.

One of those tough decisions, says Miner, came two years ago, when she broke with the Cuomo administration, and refused to let the city take part in the governor’s plan to reduce skyrocketing pension costs by letting municipalities pay them off over a long period of time. 

“This year for the first time we’ve seen our pension costs go down $2 million. If we had engaged in that program, our pension costs would have gone up.” 

If there’s anything controversial in the spending plan, Miner expects it will be a proposal for changes in the special lighting districts. 

"This is going to undo 50 years of inequity. But it’s going to ask people -- by the way like myself and my husband -- to pay for street lighting if you live in a special street lighting district,"  said Miner.

Syracuse’s Common Council will spend the next month reviewing the plan says Finance Committee Chair Kathleen Joy. 

“We need to see what the specifics are and how the budget comes about. Whey there are cost savings, what we can do more, and we just need to really dig into it,” said Joy.

The city will use its fund balance to pay for the $9 million deficit.

“It’s the smallest amount of fund balance we’ve used since I’ve been mayor,” said Miner. “And every year that number has decreased.  But we are in the context of a fiscal storm as both a state and as a country. And until the state deals with unfunded mandates, we are going to see our trends continue in a positive way, but the overall context of cities and cities’ financial positions will be in a difficult place.”  

The budget is supposed to be approved before the city’s new fiscal year begins July 1.