Unlike many other local governments in New York state, Onondaga County has weathered the recent fiscal crisis, and come out on firm financial footing. In her State of the County address Tuesday night, County Executive Joanie Mahoney credits recent budget cutting tactics for the difference.
Mahoney ticked off the statistics -- the county has one of the highest bond ratings in the state, its savings account is healthy, the budget should end the year in the black, and the tax rate is the lowest in years. And when using the New York state comptroller's measure of a government's fiscal stress, the county comes in 30 points below the point of concern in one category and 20 percent below in another.
Mahoney says it all goes back to budget cutting strategies of recent years.
"That is paying off, because we didn't get ourselves in the hole that a lot of communities did and used fund balance to close those holes and said we'd stop spending money where we could. And now we see there was a benefit to that wisdom," she said.
Mahoney also says the expansion of the Destiny USA shopping mall is spinning off millions in sales tax revenue, which helps.
While the fiscal news is good, Mahoney sees clouds on the horizon in the form of federal budget cuts.
"Federal sequestration is going to hit us again, and we will do the same thing. We know we have to provide services to the needy in our community. We're going to do that first. And if there's not money to do the other things the county does, we're going to have to look for places to trim," she said.
Mahoney says Onondaga County is ready to take up the slack if sequestration forces federal budget cuts on programs the county runs. She said the county will prioritize spending on programs for the needy, trimming elsewhere if it has to.
"The cuts at the federal level haven't been made very carefully, and so we're gonna have to look at where those cuts end up and then see whether the county wants to make those programs whole with local dollars and cut somewhere else, but when you look at programs like HEAP [Home Energy Assistance Program], you have to make sure they are fully funded."