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Raising property taxes a necessary 'pain,' Syracuse official says

A man speaks into a microphone with a red curtain behind him.
Isaiah Vazquez
Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh speaks during the State of the City Address at Corcoran High School in Syracuse, N.Y. on Thursday, January 26, 2022.

Syracuse Common Councilors began combing through Mayor Ben Walsh’s $310 million budget proposal Tuesday, which includes a 2% property tax hike and a water rate increase. 

The city's budget director, Tim Rudd said the challenge boils down to expenses outpacing revenues. He said the high cost of materials and energy is hitting the city’s bottom line, not to mention labor.

“The cost of labor is also going up with the general inflationary environment," Rudd said. "So we have to be able to pay our workers and we can't have every cost go up three to five to seven percent, and then not collect more revenue, it just wouldn't balance.”

Then there’s the challenge of chipping away at Syracuse’s persistent structural deficit. Rudd said a combination of revenue from a property tax increase, sales taxes and fund balance shrinks the gap from more than $32 million to $21 million.

“If there was a downturn in sales tax, we'd probably have to do something more aggressive to manage our expenses," Rudd said. "The property tax decision this year is definitely one that is some pain now to avoid greater pain later.”

Rudd and Walsh said the city wouldn’t have a budget gap if the state had gradually increased aid to municipalities. But it’s been stuck at $72 million for 15 years. Common Councilor Pat Hogan has been through about a dozen budgets. He said the property tax hike is needed to make up the difference.

“People expect services to, so you always have to walk that thin line of how you pay for it," Hogan said. "But if you're able to explain to them, we have vacancies and every single one of our city departments. We've done a lot to cut costs over the years.”

Hogan commends the mayor and his staff for finding the right balance. He and his colleagues will continue to review and adjust the budget in the coming weeks before taking a vote on May 8.

Syracuse Common Councilors discuss Mayor Walsh's proposed budget on April 11, 2023.
Scott Willis
Syracuse Common Councilors discuss Mayor Walsh's proposed budget on April 11, 2023.

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