This is in response to and support of the recent letter by 9 town leaders who strongly object to disrupting the current route of Interstate 81 as it runs through the city of Syracuse. Responses to this letter were mixed: from those supporting keeping the current viaduct to those challenging these leaders to producing facts to support the claims in the letter. As Chairman of the Onondaga County Legislature, I want to assure those readers that there is strong factual basis in the letter submitted by these leaders.
Since the start of the I-81 viaduct project, there have been a variety of independent polls completed. Many of these polls were commissioned by officials running for office in order to speak confidently for their constituency. In the most recent poll conducted by Save81, 59% of respondents prefer maintaining Interstate 81 as an interstate highway along its present route through Syracuse.
Most town boards in Onondaga and Cayuga Counties, as well as the County Legislatures, have issued resolutions against the removal of the I-81 viaduct or support for a hybrid option. Business owners and citizens from all over Central New York have proclaimed support for maintaining a high speed roadway close to the interstate’s existing route. The citizens of the area have spoken and the elected officials are doing their duty by representing these opinions publically.
It is critically important that more in depth reviews are completed by the NYS Department of Transportation before a final decision is made. Specifically, a hybrid solution with a tunnel or depressed highway, as well as, a community grid option. The Access Syracuse plan should be included in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS).
We must choose the option that is best for all of Central New York. New York State cannot replicate the mistakes of the past and pick winners and losers. Citizens have spoken and asked that the main artery connecting Central New York not be severed.
Chairman, Onondaga County Legislature
Tomorrow is Veterans Day. It is a day to remember those we have lost, those that have served and those that continue to fight for our freedoms and liberties every day.
As Chairman of the Legislature, I am proud to support veterans. In the 2017 budget, the Legislature continued funding the Syracuse University Veterans Legal Clinic which assists veterans and their families in seeking benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs or upgrading a military discharge through the various military branches for free. Funding for Clear Path for Veterans also continued. Clear Path is Upstate New York’s Veteran Resource Center serving as a hub of information, programs and services. Clear Path’s focus is on restoring, reconnecting and integrating veterans, their families and the community. They provide an invaluable resource for our local veterans.
At our November session, I sponsored two resolutions that continue Onondaga County’s commitment and support for our employees that are serving active duty in our armed forces. The first resolution extends the pay differential benefit for employees on authorized military leave. The county will pay the difference between the employee’s military pay and the base county salary the employee would have received for his or her regularly scheduled work week. The second resolution provides continuous individual and family dental and health insurance for county employees and their families during their active military duty. These resolutions ensure that Onondaga County employees serving our country continue to receive their full salaries and their families’ health benefits are not disrupted.
Thank you to all the men and women that have served or are serving our country. We are forever grateful to you for your sacrifice. Happy Veterans Day!
- Chairman J. Ryan McMahon II
The 2017 budget came with many fiscal challenges. Personnel costs are increasing; the county has settled several contracts with each of the unions that represent employees in Onondaga County, which came with increases in wages. Healthcare costs continue to climb. Fortunately, we were able to negotiate contracts that include increases in employee contributions for healthcare. Federal and State mandates also continue to rise. Medicaid alone will cost Onondaga County more than $99 million next year which represents almost 70% of the property taxes we collect.
With all of these challenges, the Legislature was still able to…
- Reduce the property tax levy by $1.75 million!
- Avoid an increase in the sewer unit charge for rate payers and kept water rates flat.
- Continue our commitment to villages by funding the Village Infrastructure Improvement Program. Next year, $4.5 million will be divided proportionally among the 15 villages in Onondaga County.
- Create a similar Town Infrastructure program. In 2017, towns will be able to apply for Town Infrastructure funds for the construction or reconstruction of capital projects.
- Continue our funding for the Greater Syracuse Property Development Corporation (Land Bank). The Land Bank will receive $300,000 with $150,000 earmarked for revitalization efforts in the Villages of Jordan and Baldwinsville.
One of the largest accomplishments in the 2017 budget is the plan to merge the Metropolitan Water Board (MWB) with the Onondaga County Water Authority (OCWA). 31 employees will move off of the county personnel roster and become employees at OCWA. This will save the county close to $10 million annually. This merger has been discussed for decades, however, this year we are finally getting it done and it is the right move for county taxpayers.
A lot of great things are being accomplished with less county taxpayer dollars. The 2017 tax rate represents a new historic low at $5.07. I am proud of all the work we did during this budget process.
- Chairman J. Ryan McMahon