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Onondaga County approves new budget, transfers $25 million to support Micron chip plant

A woman stands with a microphone speaking to a crowd at a meeting.
Scott Willis
/
WAER News
Legislator Mary Kuhn explains why she couldn't support using federal pandemic relief funds to support Micron's planned microchip plant in Clay.

Onondaga County legislators made it official Tuesday and approved a slightly modified $1.4 billion budget for 2023. The final vote came less than a month after the county executive submitted it to lawmakers for review. Republican Floor leader Brian May said there’s a lot to like.

"Increased investments for our children, from the early childhood alliance to foster care. Increased investments for our local economy, and our community, with housing and lead investments. And personnel resolutions that address the needs of the county, the needs of county tax payers, and the needs of our workers to be paid competitively," May said.

The budget for next year also includes an 11% property tax cut.

But what generated more discussion was an item for this year’s budget. Lawmakers agreed to transfer $25 million previously set aside for a proposed sports complex to further prepare for the Micron semiconductor plant in Clay. Legislator Tim Burtis said half of the money will be used for what he called human infrastructure.

"We're going to work on workforce development, research and development. We're working with higher education institutions. The other half is going to be for necessary physical infrastructure improvements. From site permitting, surveying zoning, pre-demolition permitting," Burtis said.

Some funds could also be used for additional property acquisition for White Pine. Legislator Cody Kelly said the chamber needs to show support because Micron is committing $250 million toward a community benefits program that will need to be matched by federal, state, and local partners.

"That's $10 million towards Syracuse University. That's $5 million towards Onondaga Community College and all the great work they do. These represent pathways out of poverty, and upward mobility for people. So, supporting this funding, indicates that we are local partners here and we are ready to take our responsibilities seriously," Kelly said.

Legislator Mary Kuhn said she fully supports Micron’s historic investment. But she doesn’t think the county should be using federal pandemic relief funds that are still needed for struggling individuals and businesses.

"We had money to do this, it's not that I don't want to add money, millions of dollars, to help this project along. But not with ARPA money. Let's use surplus. But I think there's other ways to pay for this," Kuhn said.

In the end, the transfer resolution passed 15-2, with Bill Kinne also voting no.

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.