Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner released the final budget of her administration Monday, which she says was made more difficult by the late state budget and uncertainty about federal funding. The $700 million spending plan includes $293 million for city operations, and $407 million for city schools, which anticipated $20 million in additional state aid. But Miner says the state only came through with $12 million in its budget approved Sunday night.
"The Syracuse City School District is going to have to cut the budget based on the revenues they received from New York State," Miner said. "We are going to be working with them to supplement and put in the budget numbers that represent the actual spending and actual revenue that they receive.”
Miner says $18 million in federal funding could also be in jeopardy depending on how the budget shakes out in Washington.
"At this point, nobody knows exactly because there is what the Trump administration has proposed," Miner said. "Then that goes to Congress, and that will be part of what initially gets discussed as part of the continuing resolution. The deadline is the end of May.”
Meanwhile, the city’s budget has to be approved in early May. Miner’s spending plan holds the line on property taxes, but does hike water rates. It also dips significantly into the city’s reserves by $18 million dollars to stay balanced. Miner says the realities of cuts to state and federal spending combined with increases to city employee pension and health care costs leave her no choice…
"It's easy to look at balance sheets, and say, 'if you don't pay retiree health care, you can close a deficit. If you don't hire additional police officers, you can get closer to it.' We are in a business where we are providing vital services to the people of our community at a time when the state and federal government have walked away from providing these services.”
If the city uses fund balance as planned in the upcoming budget, at the current rate, the remaining $27 million in reserves will be depleted in just two years. Barring an infusion of cash, that means the city would become insolvent, something experts and others have warned is on the horizon. Miner says if that happens, the city won’t be alone.
"Yonkers is highly susceptible to fiscal stress. Monroe county is highly susceptible to fiscal stress. Nassau County is already under a financial control board. The City of Buffalo has been in and out of a financial control board. These are trends that impact all of New York State, and as a city in New York State, we are clearly part of this overall trend.”
Miner says it’s become clear that there has to be a reassessment of how the state funds its cities. The common council will spend the next week or so combing through the mayor’s budget, and could make some changes before taking a vote next month.