Onondaga County lawmakers approve $1.5 billion budget largely intact
The final budget approved Tuesday by Onondaga County lawmakers keeps a significant cut in the property tax rate proposed by the county executive. But some proposed amendments to the $1.5 billion spending plan generated some disagreement.
Democrat Mary Kuhn was the lone no vote on the final budget, which did not include her amendments to direct less than $200,000 toward lead paint abatement efforts. All were defeated by the Republican majority. Kuhn says the county could be doing much more.
“We are in a crisis. There are children being poisoned, families are being asked to move out of homes that are lead infested, and they are then placed in other homes that are lead infested," Kuhn said. "So, there are many things that we should be looking at, for example, how about temporary safe housing for families who have to move out of their homes.”
Republican Floor Leader and Ways and Means Committee Chair Brian May says there’s a pot of money already set aside for lead paint programs. He acknowledges there are some philosophical differences on how to manage and use county resources.
“I get the symbolism of saying we need to do this, this and this in three resolutions pertaining to lead," May said. “If there's $3.2 million unencumbered, our job is to see to it that the priorities we think are important and representative of our constituents occupying that $3.2 million.”
He says Kuhn’s amendments to add money for lead testing outreach, a training program, and a local lead paint program coordinator would just add to the county’s baseline spending. May says they have to be prepared for the future.
“The economic indicators are such that I don't think we have the flexibility or any right as elected legislators to not account for what people that are a lot smarter than us are saying we need to be careful of in the near term future,” May said.
That’s despite the county’s robust $200 million fund balance. Lawmakers rejected a last minute proposal from democrat Bill Kinne to give $19 million of that money back to taxpayers, which would amount to $150 dollars for each property owner. That would have been on top of the 15 percent cut in the property tax rate, or roughly $128 in savings for a house assessed at $200,000. But most homeowners might not see the full benefit due to rising assessments.