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Light turnout for City of Syracuse budget public hearing

Christine Varga addresses Syracuse Common Councilors May 1, 2024.
City of Syracuse YouTube
Christine Varga addresses Syracuse Common Councilors May 1, 2024.

The nearly one billion dollar proposed budget for the city of Syracuse and its school district didn’t generate much public feedback at Wednesday evening’s public hearing. Only three people addressed councilors, and all of them questioned the amount of spending, transparency, and level of engagement with the process. Northside resident Christine Varga asked councilors to stand up to the mayor’s budget, which includes a two percent property tax increase and a hike in water and sewer rates.
“I'm hoping that you, members of the common council, will take into account that we, as citizens, have had to really bite the bullet and we're tightening our pocketbooks and we need you to do the same.”

Varga says property tax increases cost her an additional $1,000 a year, something she struggles to afford. Long-time observer and critic of city and county government operations Tom Law says he’s noticed what he calls a vast disconnect among lawmakers when it comes to the budget process.       

“What I see here, traditionally and in the county, is that there isn't a strict ownership of the budget," Law said. "It's more an oversight review with minimal reports of depth of substance. And it relates, I think not to bad intent, but it relates to a lack of engagement and a lack of, you might say, dutiful scrutiny.” 

Common Councilors did spend about two weeks asking department heads to clarify and justify spending in their respective budgets. The council is working on amendments to the mayor’s spending plan. The city clerk tells WAER News they’re on track to vote on the budget at their regular meeting on Monday.

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