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Politics and Government

Walsh's budget uses Syracuse's savings to avoid tax increase

Ellen Abbott
Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh presents his budget to the Common Council.

Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh’s first proposed budget asks lawmakers to use $11 million from the city’s savings account to cover a budget gap. It’s a deficit Walsh says is less than originally anticipated, after asking individual city departments to change their budget requests.

“We challenged them to go back and cut further," Walsh said. "In a way, that didn’t sacrifice services or employees. We took another $2.8 million out of the budget, and we’re going to continue to do that going forward.”

Walsh calls his $245 million proposed spending plan an austerity budget that holds the line on spending and includes a salary and hiring freeze. There will be no increase in the property tax rate, and the city will look for new revenue through enforcement of existing city ordinances. Even with those efficiencies, the Walsh said the budget model is not sustainable. 

"We want to be at a point where we have no operating deficit as soon as possible," He said. 

To reach that goal, Walsh is committing to a comprehensive review of fees the city charges and recommending the city apply to be recognized as a “Fiscally Eligible Municipality” by the state.  That provides the city with fiscal advice and offers up to $5 million in grants to facilitate change. 

Other highlights of the proposed plan include funds for body cameras for police, restoring funding to the Greater Syracuse Land Bank, and saving money through the acquisition of city street lights.

Councilors begin hearings on the budget this week, and will vote on a final plan in May.