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Onondaga County Legislature tables tax increase; McMahon says layoffs are possible

Ellen Abbott
WRVO News (file photo)

Local governments across the country are dealing with multi-million dollar budget deficits caused by the shut down from the coronavirus, and the added expenses of fighting the pandemic. In central New York, Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon said the county is facing a budget gap of as much as $130 million.

But if the answer is raising taxes, the county legislature is not ready to sign on.

McMahon wanted lawmakers to approve a 4% sales tax on residential energy bills that could bring almost $4 million in revenue this year, and $12 million next year. But they balked at the idea.

Democrat Vernon Williams says his constituents are struggling in the midst of the pandemic, and can’t afford another tax.

"They are hurting and we can’t break this budget gap on their backs," Williams said.

Even a plan to sunset the increase in two years wasn’t enough to get lawmakers to sign on. Many say there is simply not enough information now to make that kind of decision.

At the urging of Republican legislator Julie Abbott-Kenan, they decided to put consideration off a month.

"In that time it could be communicated to us what other measures they are looking at. We know they are," Abbott-Kenan said. "And maybe we could have a better picture or a more secure picture to be able to support the financial team on the county executive’s side."

But time is not something the county can spare, according to McMahon.

"If we do not have federal help, if we do not have commitments from the state that they’re not going to hit us, if we don’t have the ability from our own legislature to do things, then bad things are going to happen," McMahon said Tuesday afternoon.

Legislature Chairman Dave Knapp told lawmakers to expect a resolution calling for a “sizable amount of layoffs” next week.

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.