Achieve Fiscal Sustainability
The city of Syracuse must achieve fiscal sustainability in order to accomplish our other objectives and achieve our ultimate vision of being a growing city. Read more about specific actions we took in 2018 to put the City on a path towards fiscal sustainability:
Fiscal Year 2019 Budget • Financial Restructuring Board • Financial Advisory Committee • Financial Operations Pilot “Tiger Team” • Office of Accountability, Performance, & Innovation • Performance Management Program • Labor Contracts • X Lab Tax Collection • City-County Sales Tax Agreement
Fiscal Year 2019 Budget
Mayor Walsh presented his first budget to the Syracuse Common Council on Monday, April 9, 2018. It passed unanimously by the council on Monday, May 7, 2018. In addition, fiscal year 2019 budget public hearings were livestreamed via WCNY-TV on YouTube and posted to the City’s channel.
Financial Restructuring Board
As part of his FY 2019 budget presentation to the Common Council, the mayor recommended that the City apply to be recognized as a “Fiscally Eligible Municipality” under the state Financial Restructuring Board (FRB). Designed to prevent the need for a State Control Board, the FRB will provide the City with non-binding advice and consultation and can deliver up to $5 million in grants to implement recommended changes, if they are accepted by the City.
The mayor worked with the council to apply for FRB status in April 2018. At no cost to the City, the FRB conducted a comprehensive data-driven analysis of City finances. Its report will be released early in 2019.
Financial Advisory Committee
Mayor Walsh convened a Fiscal Advisory Committee, made up of local finance professionals in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, to provide ongoing guidance and support to the Mayor’s Office and the City’s Budget and Finance Departments.
Financial Operations Pilot “Tiger Team”
In September 2018, the City launched a financial operations pilot project. The pilot included employees from three city departments (Code Enforcement, Engineering, and Parks) who became known as the “Tiger Team.” The pilot enabled the City to evaluate centralized financial operations, develop processes to align with financial best practices, and analyze outcomes to ensure that the City has data to support its future decisions.
There are currently over 100 fiscal staff enterprise-wide, including 57 employees assigned with individual departments. This decentralization causes inefficiencies and inconsistencies in financial operations, and it is regularly cited as a weakness in the City’s annual audit.
Office of Accountability, Performance, & Innovation
The Office of Accountability, Performance, & Innovation (api) oversees the City’s performance management program and works alongside city departments to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of operations and service delivery. The Office of API contains three divisions. The Data Division works with departments to better understand and use data to drive decision-making. The Innovation Division partners with departments to develop new and creative solutions to address challenges and improve operations. The Accountability Division works with departments to ensure the ongoing advancement of programs and policies.
Performance Management Program
In September 2018, the City implemented a new performance management program and dashboard designed to improve city services and accountability to the public, using a system of setting goals and reporting progress. The performance data is published online. The Office of Accountability, Performance, and Innovation (api) manages the program and dashboard, working with departments across city government. The program is based on the Objective-Key Result (OKR) Process, utilized by companies like Google, IBM, and Netflix.
When Mayor Walsh took office in January 2018, the City had eight expired labor contracts to negotiate. This legacy created additional financial uncertainty for taxpayers. The City, in partnership with labor representatives and the Common Council, resolved all eight of those agreements in a way that is fair to workers and to the City, and can be accommodated in current financial projections.
X Lab Tax Collection
The City’s Finance Department partnered with the Maxwell X Lab, part of the Center for Policy Research at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, to develop and test an innovative communications strategy with property owners who were behind on their tax payments, but had not yet entered the foreclosure process. New, simplified notices were created and handwritten notes were added to the envelopes mailed out to residents. As a result, nearly $1.5 million in overdue property taxes was recouped and hundreds of property owners avoided further, more costly action, including foreclosure. The initiative was funded in part by the Allyn Family Foundation.
City-County Sales Tax Agreement
In December 2018, Mayor Walsh and County Executive McMahon announced a tentative agreement to extend the sales tax agreement between the city of Syracuse and Onondaga County through 2030. The Onondaga County Legislature approved the agreement on Jan. 2, 2019 and the Syracuse Common Council will act on the agreement at their Jan. 22, 2019 meeting.