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The pandemic has put extreme financial pressure on both the city of Syracuse and its residents. The Daily Orange spoke to the five Syracuse mayoral candidates about their economic priorities for the city post-pandemic.
COVID-19 and the economy
Syracuse cut $18 million from the city budget due to revenue losses, mostly sales tax. In total, Mayor Ben Walsh estimated $40 million in lost revenues in 2020 and 2021.
Federal funding has healed some of the city’s financial woes. Syracuse is on track to receive $126 million in federal funds in 2021, one of the largest cash injections in city history. Some of those funds have already been used to give back to local businesses, with an estimated $100,000 being given back to local bars, restaurants and theaters. But the question of where the funds will go remains.
What are your top priorities for where the federal funding will go? What are the keys to financial success post-COVID-19 for businesses and citizens?
Tom Babilon (R):
“One of the best things that the city can do with regards to helping economic development is just get out of the way. In Syracuse, compared to other municipalities, it’s so much more difficult to open and run a business in the city than it is in many of the suburbs. What we need to do is level the playing field.”
Khalid Bey (D):
“If we are smart about it, we have to spend the money where it provides a return on investment. Our housing stock is very important. When we spend one-time anywhere, we are in the same predicament a year or two from now needing money. We have to shore up our tax base. We have to improve our housing stock.”
Janet Burman (R):
“First, you have to recognize the role of city government in public safety and in providing basic city services. Our water system has been woefully neglected. Our response to the problems within the aging system are entirely reactive. I think this boost of federal funds should be used first to restore the necessary funding for police and fire, and secondly to address our infrastructure issues with water.”
Michael Greene (D):
“We need to recognize that a lot of the ways people work are going to be changing over the coming years. And COVID has shown that there’s an appetite for remote work, and Syracuse is really well positioned to take advantage of that because we have relatively inexpensive real estate and a lot of good quality life factors for people that used to work in New York City or Boston.”
Ben Walsh (I):
“Without the federal funding that is coming through the American Recovery Act, (we) would be in trouble. That funding is a lifeline for us. It not only helps to make up for lost revenue from the pandemic, it helps put us back on that path toward fiscal sustainability and helps get us there faster. As we look to deploy those resources, we want to make sure that we have sufficient…