The City of Syracuse has its budget in place for the 2012-2013 fiscal year, but the spending plan carries questions. Despite a structural deficit of $16 million and a potential deficit of as much as $30 million in the next budget year, common councilors have added to Mayor Stephanie Miner's proposed spending plan. YNN's Bill Carey says it may all lead to a showdown between the mayor and the city lawmakers.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Common councilors say it was a simple case of arithmetic. They say the County Comptroller informed them that the city's take of sales tax revenue may top the mayor's estimate by as much as $4 million. The lawmakers say they were being conservative by deciding only to count on half of that amount and add in another $2 million in spending.
“The council made a decision based on the information that we had and we believe that it was appropriate given the current fiscal situation and the needs of the community,” said Syracuse Common Council Majority Leader Lance Denno.
“We believe that we are able to reinvest those funds back into our children, our seniors and our neighborhoods,” Syracuse Common Councilor Kathleen Joy said.
When it came time to vote, the approval of the council version of the budget was unanimous.
But common councilors may have put themselves on a collision course with the mayor of the city, who has a much different outlook when it comes to a budget for the coming year. Stephanie Miner says she warned city lawmakers that the information they were receiving on increased sales tax was not the most reliable.
Miner said, “I told them that I was very skeptical of that, based on data. But even if that is the case, that $2 million should be more properly put in our balance so that we can try to prevent whatever crisis we know is going to happen.”
Miner knows a veto would be overridden, so she will sign the new budget. But that doesn't mean the council's plan will take effect. She says the answer is in the city charter.
“I, as mayor, cannot be forced to spend money. Particularly, I can't be forced to spend money that we don't have,” Miner said.
Councilors made it clear that if the mayor refuses to spend on the items they approved, she may find it tough to win approval for a variety of initiatives in the coming year.
“Naturally, during the course of legislating and during the course of the year, there are a lot of measures that come before us, that the administration puts forward, that need our authorization,” Syracuse Common Councilor Patrick Hogan said.
Miner says any extra money needs to be directed toward the ongoing, structural deficit, plaguing the city.
Among the items given a green light by the council were a $1 million revolving loan fund for small business, additional school funding to reinstate teaching assistants and a quarter million dollars to match private donations in the attempt to re-establish a senior citizen center in downtown Syracuse.