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Onondaga County Legislature passes 2016 budget, with concerns about ampitheater expenses

Tom Magnarelli
Onondaga County Legislature Chairman Ryan McMahon.

The Onondaga County Legislature unanimously passed its 2016 budget which focused on saving taxpayers' money while tackling some of the big issues facing the county.

The budget includes a cut to property taxes and cuts to proposed increases in sewer and water rates for Onondaga County residents. County legislature chairman Ryan McMahon said the budget will help spur the economy.

“We’re investing in our infrastructure, we’re investing in our parks, we invest in areas that are going to help draw more tourism, draw more people to our community and that’s what draws more sales tax growth and once we have sales tax growth we can do it all again next year,” McMahon said.

The budget allocated $500,000 to the Syracuse Land Bank with half of that restricted specifically for demolitions of deteriorating properties. Municipalities can apply for $100,000 in available funding to fight Lyme disease through deer and tick management programs. About $50,000 will go to the Southwest Economic Business Resource Center for minority and women-owned small businesses in the city of Syracuse.

McMahon said $300,000 will go towards Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library so all county residents with children five years old and younger can receive a free book in the mail once a month. McMahon said the budget also has money set aside for potential pay increases as the county continues to negotiate its labor contracts.

Credit Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News
Onondaga County Legislator Kevin Holmquist.

Almost $2 million was allocated in the budget towards expenses for the Onondaga County Lakeview Ampitheater. That did not sit well with some county legislators. They put half of that money into a contingency fund, and are requesting reports on the revenue from Lakeview. The revenue is supposed to offset the cost of expenses. County Legislator Kevin Holmquist said they still do not know what the numbers are from the first Lakeview concert.

"We also don't know who's going to manage it," Holmquist said. "We don't know who's going to promote it. We have a lot of questions, no answers and sadly no meetings. We haven't been told anything. The taxpayers have been handed a $50 million bill. I'm hopeful that it is successful but we are entitled to some information."

Holmquist said it is also possible that there could be a phase two of the amphitheater project for concessions and bathroom improvements which could also require additional funding.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.