Story written by Sarah Dolgin and Chris Libonati
Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh proposed Monday a $310 million budget for the city, a 5% increase in spending over last year’s budget.
The city would still have a budget deficit of a little more than $21 million, an $11 million decrease from last year. The city has long had a budget deficit but has recently covered the deficit with money in its fund balance and federal stimulus money.
Walsh said he hopes to eliminate the deficit in the next two years.
He asked members of the common council to pinpoint $20-25 million in recurring annual revenue to do so, stressing that he wants to avoid leaning heavily on local property taxes.
During his budget presentation, Walsh announced other key details in his proposal:
- The city’s fund balance will have grown to nearly $120 million, an increase of nearly $20 million.
- Property taxes will increase 2%
- The city’s property tax revenue increased 9.4%
- The city expects sales tax revenue to hit $119 million in 2024
Check out more information about the budget below.
Property tax, water increase
Although the city’s property tax base is projected to increase by nearly 10%, Walsh proposed his second property tax rate increase in six years.
Walsh proposed increasing the tax rate by 2%, which would be the first increase since 2019.
For every $100,000 of assessed value, Walsh said property owners will pay an extra $54 annually in property taxes.
The increase in property taxes came alongside a water rate increase of $1.65 per quarter.
Since 2022, property tax revenue for the city has significantly increased. In 2023, the city’s tax base increased 3.1% and is expected to grow 9.4% in 2024.
Walsh said that the growth in tax base is a positive for the city as it reflects growing property values, but he acknowledged the frustrations that may ensue from higher taxes.
Syracuse’s budget deficit
Despite a slight increase in sales tax revenue and an increase in property taxes collected, the city still faces a budget deficit of about $21 million.
Walsh plans on using money given to the city by the federal government from the American Rescue Plan and money from its fund balance to cover the deficit.
The city has used federal stimulus money to at least partially cover its budget deficit each of the last three years. But the city plans to use less stimulus money this year than it has in the past two years.
In 2022 and 2023, the budget deficits were $21.9 million and $32.4 million respectively. The city partially covered its deficit by using $22 million in federal stimulus money in 2022 and $16.5 million to cover its 2022-23 deficit.
This coming fiscal year, however, the city will use just $4 million in federal funds and $17 million from its fund balance to cover the budget deficit.
School district budget
Walsh proposed a city school district budget of about $521 million, a $40 million increase from the previous year, predominantly from a gain in state aid.
In response to a request from the school district, Walsh proposed $500,000 in aid to improve school facilities. The aid will meet local project share requirements for projects that do not receive funding from the Joint Schools Construction Board (JCSB).
Stadium construction, turf replacement, window replacement and roof repairs are projects that may receive aid coverage, Walsh said.
It will enable the district to invest up to $25 million due to state funding project reimbursement of 90%.
State aid plateaus
As city costs increase annually, Walsh said that state payments to local municipalities remained at the same rate of $72 million for about the 15th straight year.
Walsh said that the state has seen great increases in its own revenue while keeping its contributions to the city have plateaued.
“If state aid had seen even modest regular increases over the past 15 years, Syracuse would not face a budget debt,” Walsh said.
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