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In push towards Syracuse’s financial stability, Walsh proposes tax increases

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media
Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh.

Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh is proposing tax increases in the next budget to avoid cuts to staff and services, the first since 2011. But some councilors question if savings can be found to avoid raising taxes.

Walsh presented his budget to the Syracuse Common Council, saying the 3.5% property tax and 4% water rate increases were decisions not made lightly.

“We’re not proposing to maintain the status quo,” Walsh said. “We are making strategic investments that are addressing the services that we hear regularly from our constituents on. So we will be able to repair more roads, repair more potholes. We will be able to make investments in our parks and provide more opportunities for our young people to spend their time in a positive way.”

The rate increases would cost $92 a year to the average homeowner.

“You don’t know which person is one dollar away from homelessness,” Councilor Khalid Bey said. He doesn’t think raising taxes is the way to go.

“There probably could be the consolidation of some services, which would save us money," Bey said. "I know that we have redundancies between departments.”

Walsh’s budget also includes funding for street light infrastructure, addressing harmful algal blooms, tick and deer management, sidewalk snow removal, the land bank, police body cameras and a new class of police officers and firefighters. An $8 million deficit would come out of the city’s fund balance, projected to be at $47 million for 2019.

"We're not out of the woods yet," Walsh said. "We are going to continue to have to make these difficult decisions to get to a balanced budget. But it is important to note, we are on that path. We can't cut our way to prosperity. We have to grow. This budget is a reflection of the way that we believe we are going to grow."

The council’s budget hearings begin this week and a public hearing will be held at the end of the month.

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.