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Onondaga County could lay off 250 workers, Syracuse schools lay off 116

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media File Photo

Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon is asking the county Legislature to give his administration the flexibility to make up to 250 layoffs, amid an ongoing fiscal crisis of $80-100 million, due to the pandemic. The layoffs could save the county $6 million by the end of the year.

McMahon said they can’t wait any longer for financial help from the federal government.

“We’re out of time on this,” McMahon said. “Certainly, there is going to be some reorganization efforts in September.”

The federal government could still come through with a stimulus package for local governments, or the county could receive more sales tax payments.

“If the data looks better than expected, that allows us to not have to cut through the bone the way we may have to,” McMahon said.

The legislation gives the chief financial officer the authority to make a sweeping amount of layoffs, if needed. A spokesperson for the county executive said given the severity of the problem, no department would be sparred. The county executive’s office is going with layoffs instead of furloughs, which the City of Syracuse is trying to do, because furloughs would require approval from unions, which could take time, if they were agreed to at all.

Onondaga County already has 460 vacant positions it has not filled compared to last year. 160 people took part in an early retirement incentive. The county has cut $18 million in spending and will use $15 million in reserves to balance the budget.

“Unfortunately, it’s not enough,” McMahon said.

The county Legislature is expected to vote on the measure Tuesday.

Syracuse schools lay off 116

The Syracuse City School District Board of Education approved laying off 116 positions that are not needed right now, as the district will be learning remotely for the month of September. 75 school bus attendants and 41 recreation aides were among the cuts. Superintendent Jaime Alicea said they are being cautious about the budget amid a 20% reduction in funding from New York State.

“We will be calling these people back once we’re back in person in our hybrid model,” Alicea said. “But right now, we’re not going to be providing transportation to the students during the remote or we’re not going to be using them in the cafeteria during the first month of the school year.”

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.