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McMahon: 'Draconian' cuts coming if feds don't help local governments

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Tom Magnarelli
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WRVO News (file photo)

The coronavirus pandemic continues to push Onondaga County government deeper into debt. The county’s most recent sales tax payment was $3.2 million less than the same time a year ago, which puts the county's sales tax hole for the year at nearly $26 million.

That’s not the only problem, according to County Executive Ryan McMahon. Potential state funding cuts and reduced room occupancy tax from hotels adds up to $60 million in red ink. The county has already cut $30 million from the budget and laid off 450 employees. 

The only bright spot? McMahon said more people are heading to local casinos, which share some of their revenue with Onondaga County.

"There is a surge in Q-3 gambling, so we may be able to salvage enough out of casino revenue," McMahon said. "Now remember that goes into a pot of money that covers debt service for the amphitheater, so we may not get hit hard there."

McMahon said much of the county’s budget fate depends on the federal government and how much state and local governments get in a COVID relief package that’s currently being negotiated.

"If we know this weekend what the number looks like, certainly the early part of next week, we will focus on the decisions that we have not wanted to make," he said. "We will make them. We will make them quickly."

Those plans will go to the county legislature and chairman Dave Knapp expects they will be cuts people notice.

"These aren’t back room bureaucrats," Knapp said. "We’re talking the sheriff’s department, snow plow drivers, health department workers on the front line of the COVID situation every day."

Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week warned federal lawmakers if the state doesn’t get $30 billion in the relief bill, it will mean drastic and damaging budget cuts across the board.

The Senate GOP's version of the bill included no money for state and local governments.

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.