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Hike in Sewer Rates Included in County Executive Mahoney's $1.32 Billion Proposed Budget

Scott Willis

Onondaga County homeowners are being asked to shell out an additional $30 next year to help cover the cost of repairing and maintaining the aging sewer system as part of Joanie Mahoney’s 2019 budget proposal.  She delivered her $1.3 billion spending plan to lawmakers Friday. 

She says the county has some catching up to do after lawmakers have postponed much needed investment.

"In 2013, I proposed that we have a gradual increase so we don't hit anyone too hard all at once.  The first year, I think we got the 5 percent increase.  But we haven't gotten there since.  Every year's been short of that."

The higher rates would raise an extra $5.9 million, which she says is worth it to help keep Onondaga Lake clean.  Meanwhile, Mahoney’s budget keeps property taxes flat, thanks in part to a 9 percent jump sales tax revenue.

"We've seen thousands of bowlers, over a million state fair visits, and  hundreds of thousands of concertgoers at the amphitheater.   Hotel owners report robust business with all of the activity,  And the increase revenue is an indication that our investments are producing real results."

…investments such as the amphitheater and improvements to the fairgrounds.  Despite the encouraging increase in revenue, Mahoney says she’s only comfortable projecting  a 3.5 percent increase for this year, and three percent for 2019. 

Credit Scott Willis / WAER News

"In 2009 and 2010 when the recession hit, we had projected sales tax revenues at a number that we came up far short of.  So, we have never done that again, and we're very careful projecting those numbers."

Mahoney says the state's hard cap on Medicaid is providing what she calls "tremendous relief."  She says the total spent by the county was $938 million, $99 million of which was from local taxpayers.

"If the cap was not in  place, our share would have been $160 million.  It's important to note that because some people are using an old talking point about state mandates going up.  The opposite is now true.   We're able to keep the property tax rate low because the state took over millions of dollars of Medicaid expenses from our counties."

Elsewhere in the budget, Mahoney says it’ll cost an additional $9 million in salaries and benefits for the county’s workforce, which has dropped by 1,170 people since she took office.  She’s also set aside funding for an additional 15 positions at the sheriff’s department, and the purchase of a dozen patrol cars.  Lawmakers will spend the next few weeks combing through the budget and making any changes before they vote October 9th.

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