Joanie Mahoney proposes city-county merger to save money as part of state-wide initiative

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Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney's savings plan includes a potential merger between the city of Syracuse and Onondaga County.

In response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s mandate that county leaders submit savings plans for New York state, Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney has proposed one involving a city-county merger.

Under the state’s County-Wide Shared Services Initiative, Cuomo required county leaders across New York state to submit their localized ideas on a property tax savings plan by Tuesday.

The initiative, which does not apply to New York City, demands county leaders meet the objective by trimming overlapping services and proposing coordinated services within their jurisdictions, according to the state’s website.

Mahoney recently unveiled a draft of her ideas in the County-Wide Shared Services Plan version 1.0 that listed 83 proposals in shared services in areas such as economic development, wastewater and governance. Much of the projected savings have yet to be calculated.

Mahoney’s report incorporated multiple suggestions from a final report released in February by Consensus, a group composed of 19 legislators and community members. The group presented a savings plan in 16 categories and the idea of consolidating government between the city of Syracuse and Onondaga County.

The Consensus report estimated the city-county consolidation could yield between $8.7 million and $22.9 million in savings and the unification of services would save between $7.9 million and $9.9 million a year with its recommendations.

Under the County-Wide Shared Services Plan draft, Onondaga County proposed a joint government body named Greater Syracuse Service Council to be created for promoting economic growth and efficiency. It is not clear how much money would be saved because of the proposed council.

The idea of government merger has irked Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, who criticized the Consensus report as “the worst form of corporate looting.” Miner and Onondaga County Comptroller Robert Antonacci traded tirades against James Walsh, a former congressman, and William Byrne, chairman of the Byrne Dairy Board of Directors, who favored the merger at an April debate held at Syracuse University.

Critics of the merger also asserted  the city would lack representation in a new city-county government.

So far Mahoney appears to be forging ahead with the merger plan, which is mentioned in the County-Wide Shared Services Plan   despite resistance from Miner and other critics.

Onondaga County officials have marked Sept. 15 as the deadline for a panel reviewing the plan to vote on it. Additionally, one month later — or by Oct. 15 — is the deadline for Mahoney to have held a public presentation of her County-Wide Shared Services Plan, according to the county’s website.


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