Proposed Syracuse budget includes cuts, consolidations

Apr 9, 2013

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner's proposed election year budget includes no increases in taxes or fees; there are also no proposed layoffs. But despite spending cuts and consolidations, the city's fund balance takes a big hit, in order to fill a multi-million dollar budget hole.

There are 42 vacancies right now in the Syracuse Police Department and 38 in the Fire Department. None of those will be filled in the coming fiscal year as the city grapples with a $25 million budget gap.

The controversial closing of a crumbling fire station, the consolidation of the city Bureau of Planning and Sustainability with Onondaga County's Planning Department, as well as across-the-board three percent cuts in every city department help - but it's not enough, according to Syracuse Management and Budget Director Mary Vossler.

"We started at 25 [million dollars], we're down to 18. We're still at a structural budget gap. We didn't get to close that gap to where all our revenues were gonna eat all our expenses, so we had to go to the fund balance to balance that out," said Vossler.

This proposed budget eats a third of the city's rainy day fund, and Vossler says that sends a disturbing message.

"We've survived another year. Are we gonna survive two years from now if we keep using $18 to 20 million? No. We'll use that up very quickly,"  she said.

The city's Fire and Police department's take the biggest hit, with dozens of vacancies remaining unfilled in the upcoming fiscal year. The budget also proposes the controversial closing of fire station number seven, which needs more than a million in repairs.

The biggest drain on the budget are health costs for workers and retirees, many of whom leave the city workforce before age 65, meaning the city has to cover all their benefits. Syracuse common councilors have to sign off on the spending plan before it becomes final.