Common Council passes budget, but added spending in limbo

May 8, 2012

Money the Syracuse Common Council added to Mayor Stephanie Miner's budget for a new downtown senior center, a small business loan program and teaching assistants may never get spent, despite Miner saying she'll sign the budget as passed.

The council OK'd $2 million in additions to Miner's proposed budget and then approved the spending plan Monday afternoon.

But following the vote, Miner said she won't authorize the additional spending.

Projections

Her reasoning is that the council's additions are based on an increased projection on sales tax revenue the city will see this year.

"I don’t think it is prudent, nor is it responsible, to spend money that I don’t think we are going to see," she said in a press conference.

The Onondaga County comptroller estimated $4 million more in sales tax revenue than the mayor is banking on. The council says increasing spending by $2.09 million is reasonable, especially for the programs it is backing.

The bulk of the added spending would go three places:

  • $1 million for a "revolving fund" loan program for small businesses
  • $750,000 for the school district to reinstate 15 teaching assistants
  • $250,000 in seed money for a new downtown senior center

"The council made a decision based on the information we had and we believe is appropriate given the current fiscal situation and the needs of the community," Councilor-at-large Lance Denno said after the meeting.

The council's additions bring the approved 2012-2013 budget to $657 million with $298 million devoted to city operations and $359 million to the Syracuse City School District. There is no increase in property taxes.

"Phantom revenues"

Mayor Miner says she will sign the budget as it was approved Monday, but she will not authorize the additional spending, something she says the city charter allows her to do.

"We should not be, at a time like this, spending revenues," she said. "We certainly shouldn’t be spending phantom revenues when we’re trying to have a very open and honest discussion about where we as a city are going."

The projections for sales tax revenue often end up being too high, Miner argues.

By not vetoing the amendments, the council will not have the opportunity to publicly override it.

The mayor has 10 days to the sign the budget, which goes into effect July 1.