Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh presented his budget proposal to common councilors Monday, and it includes a 3.5% tax increase. It would be the first since 2011. Even if the $252.5 million spending plan is approved as is, he says Syracuse would still have the lowest tax rate among all major upstate cities.
“This is not something that we came to lightly. As some of you recall, we looked very hard at it last year. But ultimately we felt that we would benefit from a year of managing our finances under our belt in order to make sure that when we look in the eyes of our taxpayers and our constituents, that we can assure them that we are spending their valuable tax dollars as effectively and as efficiently as possible.”
Walsh’s spending plan also includes a 4% water rate increase. The new combined tax and water bill for an average $85,000 home will go up by $92. The budget will include a new class of firefighters and policemen as well as continuing the sidewalk snow removal program. Walsh is also adding $500,000 to fix more roads. He notes that although there are tax increases, the money will be well-spent.
“We are making strategic investments that are addressing the services that we hear regularly from our constituents on. So we will be able to repairs more roads, we will be able to make investments in our parks and provide more opportunities for our young people. It’s finding that balance between making strategic investments but also making the difficult decisions that keep us on that path towards fiscal sustainability.”
Walsh says his budget relies on a projected $8.1 million drawdown of the city's reserves, the lowest since 2010. He says there will be no layoffs or program cuts. Common Councilors start reviewing Walsh’s budget this week. A public hearing will be held on April 30th. The council has to vote on the budget by May 8th.