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Syracuse residents speak out against proposed tax hikes at budget hearing

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media
Rex Giardine talks about the amount of money spent busing students around Syracuse, at a public hearing on the budget.

Residents in Syracuse spoke out against a 3.5% property tax and a 4% water rate increase in Mayor Ben Walsh’s proposed budget, at a public hearing Tuesday evening. The proposed tax increase goes over New York State’s 2% tax cap, and homeowners could lose the STAR property tax credit, which some at the hearing called a lifesaver. Syracuse resident Jason Zeigler encouraged councilors to vote down the increases.

“Think about who’s paying that tax increase," Zeigler said. "There are a lot of people in this room, they feel like they really can’t afford it, they’re on a fixed income. I would ask the common council to live within its budget, to make the hard choices, to get us out of this fiscal crisis.”

Syracuse resident Tom Babilon received applause from the crowd, after he said if multimillion-dollar developers are receiving tax breaks for high-end apartment buildings in the city, then the people in Syracuse can’t afford higher taxes either.  

“We cannot afford a tax hike of any amount," Babilon said. "People are struggling to pay their taxes now. People shouldn’t have to decide whether or not they’re going to pay their taxes, they’re going to pay their mortgage, they’re going to pay the utility bill, or they’re going to feed their family.”

Councilor Khalid Bey said even middle-income residents are struggling with taxes, besides those that are a couple dollars away from foreclosure.

“I think more consideration has to be given by my colleagues on the council to do the right thing and find other ways, if other ways can be found, for the city to do its operations," Bey said.

Councilors say amendments to the proposed budget would be added Thursday and a vote on the council’s revised budget could happen Monday.

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.