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Onondaga County lawmakers pass $1.3 billion budget, choose new chairman

Ellen Abbott
Onondaga County lawmakers at their meeting Tuesday

Onondaga County lawmakers approved a $1.3 billion budget Tuesday that raises sewer rates, keeps the tax rate pretty much the same, and does it without taking anything out of the county’s savings account. 

Lawmakers voted 16 to 1 to pass a budget that went through three weeks of review. Ways and Means Chair Brian May said lawmakers were able to knock off five dollars from County Executive Joanie Mahoney’s proposed sewer rate increase, meaning homeowners will pay an extra $25 a year to help pay for repairs and maintenance of an aging sewer system.

"The sewer rate increase is largely focused on spending we know we need to make in towns and villages that can’t fund the kinds of improvements that are made, particularly in some villages where their infrastructure may be over 100 years old," said May.

He said one of the most important things they were able to do, was come up with a plan that didn’t have to dip into the county’s savings account.

"You never know what’s coming around the corner. From a mandate standpoint, with respect to all our fund balances, infrastructure requirements. We’ve had a few programs hoisted upon the county in 2018 that are very expensive. Raise the Age permeated the 2019 budget.”

Legislators also approved 200-thousand dollars for a program for the homeless in the city of Syracuse.  Legislature Chairman Ryan McMahon says details of that proposal will be revealed soon.

Knapp chosen as new legislature chairman

County lawmakers also voted on a replacement for McMahon, who will take over as county executive later this month. Legislator Dave Knapp of LaFayette was unanimously chosen as the next legislature chairman. 

"We’re at a nice place right now in the legislature. We’re working together, a lot of collaboration," Knapp said Tuesday. "I think as you saw by this vote today, with 100 percent support from the other side of the aisle,  they think I’m someone they can work with , and I’m looking forward to working with every member of the legislature."

The changes in county government are happening because County Executive Joanie Mahoney announced last month that she will resign to take a new job at SUNY ESF in November. She'll also take on an advisory role in management matters at SUNY Upstate Medical University, whose president plans to step down in 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.