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Onondaga County legislators advance executive budget, with some additions

Ways and Means Committee members sit shoulder to shoulder at meetings.
Scott Willis
/
WAER News
Republican Floor Leader Brian May, center, conducts the Ways and Means committee meeting as Chairman Jim Rowley follows the proceedings Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022.

Onondaga County's proposed $1.4 billion budget cleared its next hurdle Thursday after the legislature's Ways and Means Committee unanimously approved several minor changes and additions.

One of the most notable actions by lawmakers was to place a handful of initiatives worth a combined $7.5 million into contingency funds. Republican floor leader Brian May said there's no disagreement that the items are worthwhile.

"The budget process is not a time to vet out those kind of initiatives; they're for the legislative process," May said. "There's a big vote of confidence in the nature of these initiatives by including the dollars required for them in the budget, but they get approved within the legislative process. So, everybody gets to ask questions."

Some of the items include $2.5 million for workforce development, $2.5 million for blue/green initiatives, and $1 million each for sports tourism and senior programs. Democratic floor leader Chris Ryan agrees the legislature needs to do its due diligence.

"We as a legislature are ok with the concept or the philosophy of which, but we just have to get more details or get a little more in-depth, so that comes back to us, goes through the committee process, so we can ask the questions about what exactly is the money going to be used for," Ryan said.

Lawmakers made some small additions to the spending plan, including:

  • A one-time initiative to support an employment program for refugees at Syracuse’s Northeast Community Center
  • A one-time initiative to support the Syracuse Police Athletic/Activities League
  • New funding for first responder recruitment and retention
  • Additional funding for Syracuse’s Juneteenth festival
  • Additional funding for Cornell Cooperative Extension, to help with 4-H youth development programs and deer & tick data collection

Those allocations total $160,000.
In the end, both Ryan and May agreed the communication and collaboration level on the budget review was better than ever. Ryan says everything went smoothly.

"The course of discussions for the last couple weeks has been good. There's been a good exchange of information, not just between myself and Leader May, but also with office of budget and department heads," Ryan said.

"Communication, everybody trying to meet one another's expectations. I'm really pleased with the outcome and extremely pleased with the process," May said.

A public hearing on the will be held next Thursday, Oct. 6. at 6 p.m. in chambers on the 4th floor of the county courthouse on Montgomery street. The full legislature will take a final vote on the budget Oct. 11th.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at srwillis@syr.edu.