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Syracuse mayor appoints councilor, policy critic as new budget director

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media
Syracuse Councilor-at-Large Tim Rudd (right) with police union President Jeff Piedmonte.

Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh has appointed a common councilor, who has been critical of some of the mayor’s policies, to be the next budget director. Tim Rudd said he will start the job by continuing with the mayor’s plan to fill a $20 million budget gap.

Since 2018, Rudd has served as finance chair on the city council. Last year, he had major concerns about a police union contract Walsh negotiated, which ultimately got shot down by the council. In August, he said the mayor did not have a plan to close a huge budget gap, caused by the coronavirus. Now, he’s tasked with implementing Walsh’s plan to close that gap, which includes slashing city services and furloughing 400 city workers.

“I think you have to be open and have people in place who are going to thoughtfully look at the data coming in and make different plans for different situations, so that you’re ready,” Rudd said.

Different scenarios will require different strategies, he said. And a lot can change in the next few months.

“It probably depends on the upcoming election," Rudd said. "It depends on if we get any kind of bailout. It depends when there’s a vaccine for the coronavirus. It depends when people actually believe the economy is going to be okay and go back to spending."

Rudd said he’s not surprised he got the job, given his qualifications, which includes working in New York City’s budget office during the 2008 financial crisis. For Syracuse, Rudd said the city needs a stronger financial plan.

“If there was just better planning on how the money gets used, what exactly you’re getting for that money, I think it would help create a culture of financial accountability,” Rudd said. “If there’s not a detailed plan, it’s hard to hold people accountable. Across the board, in all city departments, that’s one thing that could be improved.”

In a statement, Mayor Walsh admitted the two haven’t always seen eye to eye, but he said they share "the same passion to protect the city’s financial health and achieve long-term fiscal sustainability.”

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.