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Onondaga County lawmakers begin work this week on McMahon's $1.5 billion budget proposal

Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon delivers his county budget proposal to lawmakers Friday September 15, 2023.
Ellen Abbott
Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon delivers his county budget proposal to lawmakers Friday September 15, 2023.

Onondaga County lawmakers this week begin sifting through a $1.5 billion budget proposal for 2024. It’s an approximately three-week process to come up with their version of a budget.

The story of the budget has always been a balancing act on the revenue side, because property tax dollars only fuel a small portion of county government.

"The property tax make up is less than 12% of this budget,” said Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon. “We run government on sales tax. That means we need people to spend money who live here, here. That means we need to bring people who live outside here, here."

This year’s budget cuts the average property tax rate by 15%.

“That's real relief,” McMahon said. “We’ve been physically prudent. We feel we can make key investments, deliver the services we're supposed to while making things more affordable here in the community. And that's because of the economic growth that we're seeing.”

Sprinkled in with continued spending on veterans, youth and mental health programs, McMahon is looking to invest heavily in parks and recreation. He’s proposing $13 million to upgrade the marina at Onondaga Lake Park, and $6 million to upgrade baseball and softball fields at Hopkins Park. The Hopkins Park proposal is a downsized version of plan last year to bring in sports tourism dollars that was torpedoed by lawmakers. Republican Floor leader Brian May said this scale is much easier to swallow.

“I like the idea for the park,” said May. “It’s a better idea."

As for Democrats, floor leader Chris Ryan said they like the continued spending on things like daycare and lead poisoning prevention programs, and also the proposed property tax cut.

“If we have the ability to return that money to the taxpayers, we should be doing it,” said Ryan. “And 15% is good, we'll see. Maybe we can do more."

Lawmakers will have a series of meetings in the coming weeks with each county department regarding the budget. A public hearing is planned for October 5, with a final vote planned for October 10.

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.