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McMahon proposes ‘historic’ infrastructure investments with $60 million budget surplus

Ellen Abbott
Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon presents his 2022 budget to county lawmakers Tuesday

Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon barely mentioned the COVID-19 pandemic in his 2022 budget presentation to lawmakers this week. But the still simmering pandemic has its fingerprints all over a $1.4 billion spending plan.

The proposed budget has property taxes go down a bit and sewer fees stay steady. It includes what McMahon calls “historic” infrastructure investments, like construction of an $85 million aquarium and $25 million sports complex. He said it’s important to invest in things that return sales tax revenue to the county.

“If we don’t generate revenue and we don’t generate this community as a community that people want to come and visit and spend money, or give residents here a reason to spend their money here instead of going somewhere else, then it’s harder to fund public safety,” McMahon said. “It’s harder to fund parks. It’s harder to fund human services.”

He also wants to bring broadband service to underserved parts of the county. Program spending ranges from child care initiatives to expanded mental health programs. All this, less than a year after COVID decimated the county’s books. McMahon said the pandemic forced the county to plan for the worst and make major cuts. Now that the economy is recovering and sales tax revenues are up, that sacrifice has left the county sitting on a $60 million budget surplus.

“We did the hard work to allow ourselves to be in a position to transform this region and really double down on investments that are going to drive the revenue growth to fund our base operations," McMahon said.

As for the future, McMahon doesn’t worry that the pandemic could tank the economy again.

“There’s no shutting an economy down again because of COVID,” McMahon said. “We know what we can do with COVID, we know what works, we know where there’s more risk to the public."

The proposal is now in the hands of the county Legislature, which will vote on it in early November.

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.