SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — On Thursday, Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh proposed his 2022 budget that includes a $264.9 million spending plan. It restores city services to pre-pandemic levels and will make investments into housing equality, public safety, schools, and parks and recreation programs. It does not include a property tax hike for city residents.
“With responsible decision-making in coordination with the Common Council, the City of Syracuse has withstood the first wave of fiscal damage delivered by the pandemic. This budget brings relief to residents as we manage the continued impact of COVID-19 on city finances,” said Mayor Walsh. “The harmful effects of the pandemic are still being felt and, more than ever, people need city government to ensure they have access to quality housing, clean and safe neighborhoods, and great parks and recreation spaces.”
What’s included in the budget?
- A new housing quality and safety enforcement unit
- Staffing for improved code enforcement and compliance
- Multiple investments in city parks, trails and urban forest
- Staffing for improved maintenance and management of sidewalks
- New police and fire classes to offset retirements
- More funding for schools
Mayor Walsh’s proposed budget includes new staff in the Division of Code Enforcement and the Syracuse Fire Department to support the creation of a new High-Occupancy Monitoring and Enforcement (HOME) Unit, a multi-department city team charged with proactive monitoring and enforcement of housing conditions in large residential complexes. With representatives from Codes, Police, Fire, Law and Neighborhood and Business Development, the HOME Unit will be charged with enforcing provisions that protect tenant health, safety, and well-being; improving the quality of existing affordable housing; developing new safe housing initiatives; and helping both tenants and landlords in need of assistance.
While the proposed budget holds the overall Syracuse Police Department budget flat, it provides funding for continued investment in ongoing reform efforts and community engagement, such as the new Police Athletic League and also funds key crime and safety programs, including special details for Gun Violence Suppression, Burglaries, Street Racing, Dirt Bikes/ATVs, and Fireworks, as well as the reinstatement of ShotSpotter.
Mayor Walsh’s budget will increase Parks, Recreation and Youth Programs resources to support the Onondaga Creekwalk, which has been expanded into the city’s south side, and the newly-opened Empire State Trail along Erie Boulevard. A new dedicated Parks staff person will oversee cleanliness and maintenance of both popular trails.
The Mayor’s budget will also reinstate a Parks Department supervisor focused on the appearance of the more than 100 Parks-maintained public spaces citywide. Working from the city Greenhouse, the crew leader will be charged with ensuring the areas, which range from corner green spaces to grass strips in the center of roads, enter each growing season with proper care and attention.
The budget will also allow for a new Forestry Technician as the Parks Department’s Forestry Bureau continues its restoration of embankments and buffer areas along the Creekwalk and reduction of overgrowth at city parks. The Department is also preparing to issue its Urban Forest Master plan this year, a multi-year program based on community input to increase the tree canopy in the city.
The plan funds the reopening of seven outdoor city swimming pools this summer. Last year, the City opened four pools, two of which were paid for by an online community fundraising campaign. The pool at Burnet Park will be closed for maintenance and repair this summer.
The budget and capital plan also includes:
- Code enforcement staffing for housing quality, lead enforcement and rental registry compliance
- Investments in the City’s information technology, digital infrastructure and cybersecurity
- A new Environmental Services Division in DPW with additional dedicated litter pickup staffing
- Staffing in anticipation of a municipal sidewalk maintenance program
- A public information officer to support the increased activity and need for public communication and resident engagement within Public Works, Engineering, Planning, and Water departments
- Purchase of outdoor recreation equipment for “pop up” family events at city waterways
- Installation of a new playground at Grace Massena Park on the west side
- Creation of the City’s first natural playground at Onondaga Geddes play lot, using natural materials collected by the City’s Forestry Bureau and constructed by city carpenters
- Continuing centralization of city finance services with the integration of Water Finance into the City Payment Center
- Improving access and timeliness of responses to Freedom of Information Law requests
Senator Chuck Schumer offered this statement on Walsh’s budget:
“Though countless calls, zooms, and visits with Syracuse leaders this past year, I saw first-hand the incredible sacrifices that were made to confront the global health and economic pandemic they battled on the frontlines right here in the Salt City. That’s why as Majority Leader, I made local funding my top priority in the American Rescue Plan and fought so hard to ensure that local governments – like Syracuse – would get the funding needed to not just recover and rebuild from COVID, but to build back stronger and more vibrant communities. Today is the first step towards a brighter future for Syracuse and I look forward to working with Mayor Walsh and the Common Council to achieve that goal.”Sen. Schumer
Mayor Walsh’s budget presentation will stream live in the video player below: