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Onondaga County lawmakers to begin work on pandemic-related spending plan

Ellen Abbott
Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon delivers his budget presentation in Syracuse Wednesday

Onondaga County lawmakers begin working on a coronavirus pandemic-related budget this week. County Executive Ryan McMahon presented a spending plan Wednesday that reflects dramatic cuts in revenue, and what will ultimately be a smaller government.

The budget weighs in at $1.25 billion. That’s $84 million less than last year’s spending plan.

“It’s a budget that reflects the reality of our new normal,” McMahon said.

That new normal means tax receipts down 8%, cuts in state and federal aid, and more state mandates adding to the county’s spending side of the ledger, which McMahon isn’t happy about. 

“You’ll hear me be more aggressive with our friends in Albany this year,” he said. “Because there’s no money. And you keep on telling us to do more and are cutting at the same time. And you pass a law and you don’t ask us how it will impact us, and it impacts us very badly.”

Still, McMahon said the county's been able to keep the tax rate steady in this budget proposal, and there are no layoffs included. Early retirement programs and austerity measures have helped the county deal with the losses, but ultimately, the county will operate with fewer employees in the coming year.

“In total, we are down over 500 positions in this budget compared to the 2019 budget,” McMahon said. “And we have fewer than 2,900 people working for Onondaga County.”

McMahon did include more spending for pandemic response and recovery, and funding for early childhood and homeless programs. County Legislature Chairman Dave Knapp said there won’t be much wiggle room with these numbers.

“Our role going forward analyzing this budget is talking to department heads making sure they’re comfortable with what they’ve got,” Knapp said.

Lawmakers will vote on the budget in early December.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.