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Higher taxes, less representation concern suburban residents in Onondaga County consolidation

Tom Magnarelli
Nearly 100 people attended a public hearing on the Consensus CNY report at the Salina Town Hall in Liverpool Tuesday night

The majority of Onondaga County residents that came out to a public hearing Tuesday in Liverpool on government consolidation in the county were concerned about two issues: their taxes going up and having less access to public officials.

A report released in January by Consensus CNY has drawn criticism from residents living in both the City of Syracuse and the suburbs over how consolidation recommendations would be implemented. Among the recommendations is the creation of a single municipal government in Onondaga County. At Tuesday night’s meeting at the Salina Town Hall, some residents blamed unions and high taxes for the stagnant economic growth in the region as well as the loss of manufacturing companies. Nick Ciotti of Liverpool said the continued sprawl into the suburbs without an increase in the overall population is what is driving up taxes and spending.   

“As it points to the City of Syracuse, at the end of the day the city is the heart and soul of this region," Ciotti said. "If the city is not strong, we all suffer. Find me a region in this country that thrives that does not have a strong city at its core.”

Jill Hageman-Clark, the town clerk in Clay said residents currently have good access to elected officials, which might be lost under a bigger, centralized government, a sentiment shared by many in the audience.

“They like to come in, they like to know us, they like to see us,” Hageman-Clark said. “We have people who come in, they know us by name, they talk to us. We’re the ones they can voice their concerns to.”   

Attorney Scott Chatfield of Marcellus said many of the service recommendations made by Consensus are good.

“Eliminate, however, from your proposal, any notion of centralized government and you’ll find instantly a lot more support for the initiative,” Chatfield said.

Any changes to the structure of the county and city governments would have to be put to a voter referendum in November. Several more public hearings will be held this month, including one in Camillus Webdesday evening. The commission will then release a final recommendation later this spring.    

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.