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Syracuse Common Council passes budget with no tax or fee increases

Ellen Abbott
Syracuse Common Council passed the city budget Wednesday.

Syracuse Common Councilors have unanimously approved Mayor Stephanie Miner’s $674 million budget, with a few minor changes. Lawmakers added some cash to deal with some perennial problems.

The extra spending amounts to less than $1 million, and covers more water and sewer maintenance and repair, and demolition of hazardous buildings.  

Finance Committee Chairwoman Kathleen Joy says these were items that lawmakers kept hearing about in public meetings. And while the additional amounts may be a drop in the bucket, she says increasing spending for infrastructure has another advantage.

"If the state and federal government say to us, help yourself first, well, this is a start to do that,” said Joy.

The spending came with some warnings on a couple of fronts. Council Majority Leader Helen Hudson noted that most of the demolitions are in neighborhoods on the south and southwest sides of the city, and when buildings are torn down, there’s nothing to replace them.

"And you have a big -- for lack of a better word -- a snaggletooth community. You go a whole block and you’ll see patches of houses gone. And it’s really not responsible,” said Hudson.

Hudson wants the city to work with housing organizations to rebuild new homes where the old ones used to be. The other warning comes from Councilor Pam Hunter, who notes that even though the city has been struggling financially in recent years, there have been no increases in fees and services, and she says that might have to change.

“I’m not trying to nickel and dime the city residents. I think the city residents really need to know how much things costs, and the fact that realize we aren’t going to get some saving grace kind of financial lottery ticket swoop in and give is all the money we need to solve our problems,” said Hunter.

The council says future discussions about how to generate more revenue will likely include sewer and water fees, as well as how much the city charges for a variety of permits and licenses.  

The mayor’s initial budget included increases in taxes for people living near pricey special lighting districts, but after public outcry, the council put that proposal on hold.

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.