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Syracuse Common Councilors approve $294 million budget

common council may 9 2022.jpg
Scott Willis
/
WAER News
Councilors enjoy a lighter moment during their May 9, 2022 meeting.

Syracuse Common Councilors Monday completed the city’s budget process for the coming fiscal year by giving the $294 million spending plan their unanimous approval. The new budget includes $300,000 added by the council for a police staffing study. Walsh says Chief Joe Cecile is on board, and the timing is right.

"The department, in many ways...the way in which it operates is based on having around 500 officers, which is where we were in the 1990s. Obviously things have changed. We're below 400 now. We have to make sure our operations align with our staffing capacity. My hope is that the study will help us understand where we are today, where we want to go, and help us to justify the overall budget."

In the end, councilors added about one million more dollars to the spending plan. The budget grows by 11 percent, thanks to increases in property value and higher sales tax collections, but doesn’t include a property tax increase.

Also included in the new budget is the fee assessment to cover the cost of the city’s $4.5 million plan to repair or replace the city’s crumbling sidewalks. Walsh says last year’s launch of the program was covered by federal pandemic relief funds. This year, property owners are being asked to chip in.

"This year is the first step in making the program sustainable. And that's by assessing a fee to property owners."

mayor walsh may 9 2022.jpg
Scott Willis
/
WAER News
Mayor Ben Walsh addresses the media following council approval of the budget.

Councilor Joe Driscoll says residents were being shocked by bills to cover the cost of replacing their sidewalks.

"It's better for us as a city, as we've seen from cities like Rochester, to pay incrementally, all of us in it together, contributing a little, rather than individuals getting singled out for having to pay that $15,000 bill or that $10,000 bill."

Instead, residential property owners will be see $20 fee reflected on their tax bills staring in July; commercial owners will pay more. The fees will increase in subsequent years. But Mayor Walsh says it’s worth it.

"You can already see the impact of the program throughout the city. Drive down Park Street on the north side, and you will see new sidewalks lining the street."

Walsh says they’ll replace sidewalks based on use and condition.