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Syracuse Common Council approves budget with some changes

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO News File Photo
Syracuse Common Council.

The Syracuse Common Council voted unanimously to approve a city budget for the next fiscal year. The budget still includes a $12 million deficit from Mayor Stephanie Miner’s proposal, but more money has been shifted toward road repairs.

The street improvement budget nearly doubled to $5.7 million to pave more roads and repair more pot holes. Councilor Nader Maroun, the finance committee chair, said additional money was added to overtime for Department of Public Works workers to clean out catch basins and sewers after years of heavy storms and flooding.

“We have to do that and the people in this city are really asking all of us as councilors to address this,” Maroun said. "Over the past six years we have reduced the amount of money for recon work, essentially paving. We wanted to add some money back into that. Certainly the mayor has been expressing, on behalf of the city, the concerns on infrastructure. We want to support it, we looked at the budget, we found ways we thought we could help with the budget to address those issues and the administration was receptive to that."

Maroun said they had to move insurance costs and decrease pension costs to avoid adding more to the deficit. That will bring reserves down to close to $43 million.

“There’s no question that we’re challenged financially,” Maroun said.

The council also approved a $500,000 increase to the Say Yes to Education program which provides college tuition to public high school graduates in the city.

Maroun reminded residents that the city is not raising taxes and there has not been an increase in state aid to the city for years. But more revenue will be needed over the long term in order to sustain finances.

“People want to develop in the city of Syracuse," Maroun said. "There have been challenges to that either from zoning, time delays, etc. But I think people really want to invest in it. So I’m optimistic that we’ll be able to address our financial concerns going forward.” 

Maroun pointed out that the city is updating its zoning code to make it less complicated for property owners and developers. He anticipates a boost in taxable property development in the university area in particular in the next two years.

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.