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Politics & Government

Onondaga County Legislators Try To Close A $60 Million Budget Gaps, Debate Layoffs

Kenneth C. Zirkel
Wikimedia Commons

Onondaga County employees might find themselves the latest victims of the coronavirus as County leaders consider early retirements and layoffs.  The county is looking for ways to deal with what could be a $60 million budget gap. 

The coronavirus pandemic has infected the Onondaga County economy.  And as many as 360 county employees could be impacted.  More than 160 county employees are interested in taking an early retirement incentive.  The county is considering 200 layoffs to further reduce payroll.  Legislator Linda Ervin isn’t ready to back that

“I would not want to commit to these layoffs until we’ve done everything possible. Layoffs to me at this point are a last option, and I don’t think we’re at the last option place,” said Ervin. “I was here the last time we did this. It was awful. We’re talking about people’s lives and their families. I don’t want to do that until we absolutely have to.”

Steve Morgan with the County Budget Office has been cutting costs.

We’ve locked up about $9 million dollars in various supplies and materials, to contract expenses to professional services, travel and training,” said Morgan. “And then we’ve also held all personnel vacancies. We’re only filling absolutely critical positions. We put the brakes on spending.”

Lawmakers might vote again on an energy tax to raise revenue.  They’re really hoping federal aid being considered in Albany comes through, though they say they can’t sit and wait and have to have cost-cutting plans. 

The Legislature is also considering a measure to set up a non-partisan citizens task force to redraw county district lines.  Chris Ryan sees it as a way to improve a highly politicized process.

“The process that we have now is not transparent enough. I don’t think it’s an example of good governance,” said Ryan. “I think other cities that have incorporated such laws and empowered the citizens to redraw the district lines has been very successful."

Some are concerned over costs, and if the county executive might veto. But Ryan says you can’t put a cost on good government.  The redistricting measure will be before the full legislature in July.