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Syracuse council passes budget with changes; mayor vows to veto

Tom Magnarelli
Councilors Steven Thompson and Nader Maroun.

The Syracuse Common Council has passed a budget that includes some controversial changes to what Mayor Stephanie Miner had proposed. Miner said she will veto the changes.

The council has cut overtime from Syracuse’s fire and police departments by $1 million each. But Councilor Steven Thompson said the money cut for police overtime has been shifted to hire new officers.

“Of course we would like to see overtime go down," Thompson said. "We have no belief that it probably will drop too much this year, but going forward, when those officers are on the job, it will replace 30 people that could have been getting overtime.”

Miner’s administration said they are not compelled to spend the money allocated on a new class of police officers. Miner called the cuts nonsensical and a risk to the city.

Also on the chopping block was the annual funding for the Syracuse Land Bank which acquires tax delinquent properties. Councilor Jean Kessner said the land bank has a healthy fund balance. 

“We do not include funding for the land bank but do not read this that we do not have full confidence and support for the land bank," Kessner said. "It's a financial necessity for the health of our city going forward."

Syracuse Land Bank Executive Director Katelyn Wright said the cut will mean fewer demolitions and a limit to how many properties they can take in.

"The biggest complaint that we get from folks when we go to neighborhood meetings is there are all these land bank signs all over and properties are just sitting and nothing is happening with them and it is largely because half of our structures are awaiting demolition," Wright said.  

Councilor Nader Maroun said the council’s budget decreases the city’s deficit by $2 million.

"We're not saying we're not in support of the land bank," Maroun said. "Quite the contrary. We want to be here to continue to support the land bank. But it takes fiscal responsibility to get to that point."

Although Miner has vowed to veto the council’s amendments, all of the changes passed beyond the threshold to override a veto.

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.