Syracuse, New York

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Transparency grading process
Syracuse, New York is one of the five largest cities in New York. It is the County seat of Onondaga County.

Website evaluation

See also: Evaluation of New York city websites

This website was most recently evaluated Aug. 21, 2012.

The good

  • Budget documents are posted online.[1]
  • Meeting schedules and agendas are available, but meeting minutes are not posted.[2]
  • Contact information is provided for elected officials.[3][4]
  • The city's directory provides the names and contact details for key administrative officials.[5]
  • Zoning ordinances, along with forms, are present.[6]
  • City audits are available.[7]
  • Bid announcements and awarded contracts can be viewed through the Central New York Public Purchasing System.[8]
  • Freedom of Information applications are available online, containing relevant pricing and contact information.[9]
  • The Department of Finance provides a list of required fees.[10]

The bad

  • Meeting minutes are not posted.
  • City lobbying information is not provided.
  • Local property tax information is not provided.

Budget

The 2011-2012 budget contains expenditures totaling $617,679,559. 46% of that total funds city operations, while 54% is for the school district. The budget accounts for a 4.25% drop in state aid to the city, as well as a loss of $5.7 million in stimulus funds. The city's portion of the budget, approximately $283.6 million, is an increase of $5 million of the past year's budget. Increased costs were driven primarily by employee wages and fringe benefits.[11]

Exploring Municipal Bankruptcy

Faced with high pension payments and rising health care costs, the city of Syracuse is dipping into state assistance to prevent having to use city reserves to shore up the budget. Syracuse faces an estimated budget gap of $16 million for 2013, but only has $20 million in the city’s fund balance. The city has tapped into its savings for five straight years to cover shortfalls.[12] Wage freezes and staff reductions in various city departments have been used as an answer to budget problems. Now the city is looking at municipal bankruptcy as a possible solution. Before the city could file for municipal bankruptcy the state Financial Control Board would need to step in. The state has invoked a Financial Control Board before, currently in the city of Buffalo, twice previously in Yonkers, and once in New York City.[13]


In May, Fitch and two other bond rating agencies said Syracuse had maintained a good credit rating despite looming fiscal pressures and a weak economy. Fitch Ratings maintained the city’s A rating with a negative outlook; Moody’s Investors Service maintained an A1 rating; Standard & Poors maintained an A- rating with a stable outlook. All three agencies warned that Syracuse faces structural budget deficits in years to come that will threaten its credit rating.[14]

Public employees

Elected officials

The Common Council is the legislative branch of the city government. It consists of nine members and a president. The president and four members are elected at-large to a four year term. The five other members are each elected from one of five districts to two year terms. Neither the president nor a councilor may serve more than eight years in the same seat. Members are:[15]

Name Title District
Van B. Robinson President At large
Lance Denno Member At large
Pamela Hunter Member At large
Kathleen Joy Member At large
Jean Kessner Member At large
Jake Barrett Member District 1
Patrick J. Hogan Member District 2
Bob Daugherty Member District 3
Khalid Bey Member District 4
Nader P. Maroun Member District 5

The current Mayor is Stephanie A. Miner. Miner was first elected in November, 2009, and is serving as the city's 53rd Mayor.[16]

Administrative officials

A city organizational chart can be found here, along with a contact directory located here.

Salaries

Salaries are posted by The Empire Center. The ten highest paid employees all work for the Police and Fire departments, with salaries ranging from $149,059 to $139,595.[17]

Pensions

Transparency & public records

A PDF file of a FOIA request form provided by the city can be found here. According to the document, the city charges $0.25 per printed page.

Taxes

The city assessment role is compiled annually by the Department of Assessments. Assessments are based on the market value of property in the city. Property tax exemptions exist for rehabilitating a vacant residence, new construction, and improving a residential property.[18]

In May, 2011, the Syracuse Common Council approved a $2.4 million property tax increase, which was quickly vetoed by Mayor Stephanie Miner. The proposed tax would have added $48 to a Syracuse house appraised at roughly $70,000.[19]

Lobbying

The city does not provide information on tax payer funded lobbying.

External links

References