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Onondaga County Lawmakers Approve Initial Revisions to Mahoney's Budget

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Scott Willis
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WAER News

Onondaga County lawmakers moved a little closer Friday to approving next year’s county budget.  The Ways and Means committee approved a number of mostly minor changes to the county executive’s $1.3 billion  spending plan.

"She brought over a good, solid budget.  There were absolutely no hatchets or chainsaws; it was literally a scalpel to trim a little here and there to address some of our priorities."

Committee chairman Dave Knapp says they did add funds for child literacy, new sheriff’s department vehicles, and an FAA-mandated engine overhaul for the Air-1 helicopter.  Otherwise, he says this budget was quite difficult due to uncertain sales tax revenue.

"That doesn't give us as much to work with, obviously.  The state mandates take up pretty much all of the property tax revenue.  We really fund our government on sales tax.  With sales tax being flat, even being down a little bit in 2016 year over year, that makes things very tight."

But, Knapp says, the trend seems to be turning around.

"We are on the increase, not a huge increase.  We budgeted very, very conservatively for 2018.  I think it's a little over 1.5 percent."

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Credit Scott Willis / WAER News
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WAER News
Ways and Means Committee Chair Dave Knapp conducts a vote of the legislature's changes to the county budget.

He says venues such as the Lakeview Amphitheater are certainly driving revenue.

"I think they said last year that more than 50 percent of those folks were from outside of the county.   They're coming, they're spending money, a lot of them are staying overnight in our hotels, so we have room occupancy tax, which helps us."

The ongoing renovations of the state fairgrounds to a year-round venue, along with the new Marriott Syracuse Downtown also help.  As it stands now, the budget cuts $500,000 from the property tax levy, and slightly trims the property tax rate.  A public hearing on the legislature’s changes will be held Thursday at 7 p.m. in chambers.  A final vote will be held October 10th.

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.