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Syracuse 2021 budget projects nearly $14 million deficit, $6 million sales tax loss from coronavirus

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Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh gives an online budget presentation to the Syracuse Common Council.

The City of Syracuse is projecting a $6.1 million loss in sales tax revenue this year, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The total projected shortfall from the crisis is more than $11 million. Those were among some of the highlights Mayor Ben Walsh outlined in his 2021 budget proposal. Despite operating with a larger than anticipated deficit, the city plans to move forward in some areas. 

Walsh is projecting a nearly $14 million deficit in the budget, which will be offset by the use of reserve funds, which he said, is hovering around $50 million.

“There’s a reason you have a rainy day fund,” Walsh said. “I think by almost any measure, it is raining right now. But we know that is not a sustainable way to operate. We’re hoping that this is a blip on our radar as we continue to try to get closer to a balanced budget.”

Walsh proposed no increase in property taxes.

“We certainly need the revenue," Walsh said. "But given everything everyone is going through, the financial challenges certainly aren’t limited to municipalities. We know everyone is struggling right now. It didn’t feel like the right time for a property tax increase.”

There is funding for two new housing inspectors and a program coordinator to accommodate more lead testing in rental housing. Walsh wants to add a new class of firefighters, but he is not proposing a new class of police officers.

Money is coming to Syracuse from the federal government as part of its coronavirus economic response, with some funds going to the Syracuse Land Bank, demolitions and those new housing inspectors.

The Syracuse Common Council will hold online budget hearings in the coming days and weeks ahead. A public hearing and vote by the council will likely happen next 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.