To Achieve Fiscal Sustainability
The fund balance for the City of Syracuse operating budget remained stable in Fiscal Year (FY) 2019. Ongoing efforts to reduce the projected budget deficit remained consistent in the Fiscal Year 2020 budget presented to the Common Council by Mayor Walsh on Monday, April 8, 2019.
Below are actions steps implemented in 2019 to put the City on a path towards fiscal sustainability:
FY 2020 Budget • Financial Restructuring Board • Credit Rating Outlook • Performance Management Program • City-County Sales Tax Agreement • Medicare Advantage Shared Service Savings • Assessment Reform
FY 2020 Budget
Mayor Walsh presented the second budget under his administration to the Syracuse Common Council on Monday, April 8, 2019. The budget included an investment in the City’s street light network, funding for public safety resources, added support for infrastructure maintenance and repair, and a proposed property tax and water increase. The approved FY 2020 budget was voted on by the Council on Monday, May 6, 2019.
The budget presentation can be viewed online on the City of Syracuse YouTube channel.
Financial Restructuring Board Report
The Mayor and the Common Council agreed to have the City apply to be recognized as a “Fiscally Eligible Municipality” by the New York State Financial Restructuring Board (FRB) for Local Governments in 2018. The designation allows eligible cities to receive recommendations to prevent the need for a State Control Board. Up to $5 million in grants to support the recommended changes are available if implemented.
The comprehensive review of City finances was released in a report in early July 2019. The report outlined ways in which the City could take steps to reduce fiscal stresses and reliance on the general fund balance. Recommendations included: a continued shared services plan; investing in smart technology (e.g. street lights acquisition and LED conversions); a modern timekeeping system; efficient ways to provide services; and healthcare and labor efficiencies.
The City is developing action plans for review and approval for grant funding by the Board.
Credit Rating Outlook
The City’s Standard & Poor’s Global Ratings outlook upgraded to Stable, maintaining the City’s rating at an A in 2019. The City received an A1 bond rating, maintaining a stable outlook from Moody’s Investor Services, another worldwide credit rating agency. The positive ratings are indicators of concerted efforts to control expenses and increase revenue, while relying less on reserved funds to meet budgetary needs.
Performance Management Program
The Office of Accountability, Innovation and Performance has maintained the performance management program and dashboard. The Objective-Key Result (OKR) for each of the main focus areas of this report determine the progress the City is making in delivering services to residents. The data-driven measurement tool is open to the public and can be viewed at dashboards.syrgov.net.
City-County Sales Tax Agreement
The Syracuse Common Council and the Onondaga County Legislature agreed to extend the city-county shared sales tax agreement in January 2019. Twenty-four percent of sales tax generated each year from 2021 to 2030 will go to the City. The stable revenue stream will contribute to the City’s fiscal sustainability.
Medicare Advantage Shared Service Savings
The City of Syracuse, Syracuse City School District and Onondaga County partnered to seek joint request for proposals for a Medicare Advantage insurance plan used by retirees in each organization. With United Healthcare secured as a vendor, the three-year contract will reduce the plan cost for prescription drugs per retiree in half. The savings for the City in the first year alone is estimated to be between $3 million and $5 million.
Local Law 14 of 2010 was amended after being approved in December 2019 by the Common Council. The amendment strengthened requirements for the 12 year property tax exemption under the Section 485-a of the Real Property Tax Law, Residential-Commercial Urban Exemption Program. Moving forward, in order for the exemption to be granted, developers will now have to abide by clearly defined standards for the conversion of non-residential structures to mixed use, and it also gives the City the ability to rescind an exemption for noncompliance.
The change will allow for a more stringent qualification process for developers to adhere to in order to receive tax exemptions. Assessors will have more power prior to and throughout the exemption period, creating a pathway to restored tax revenue in the event of noncompliance.