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Mayors: Sales tax proposals unsatisfactory

At last week's final meeting of the county Legislature's sales tax committee, two competing proposals were outlined, then ultimately forwarded to the Legislature's Ways and Means Committee for further consideration, which will meet Tuesday April 27.

In Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney's proposal of a 75-25 percent split between the county and the city of Syracuse, details include funds to be phased out of towns and villages by 2012 and 2015, respectively. The school's share would be cut in half with a fixed rate until 2020, when the 10-year contract would again be up for negotiation.

In Onondaga County Sales Committee Chairman Jim Rhinehart's proposal, school districts would be cut out entirely. His proposal would provide the city of Syracuse $50 million annually -- significantly less than in Mahoney's -- while the county would get $129 million. The remaining $100 million in sales tax receipts would be used to reduce property taxes among the county's villages and towns as well as in the city of Syracuse. Funds for towns, villages and schools would be reduced to zero immediately.

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Fayetteville Mayor Mark Olson, also the vice president of the Onondaga County Mayor's Association, said neither proposal addresses the real problem, which is the social services budget that the county keeps struggling with every year.

He mentioned County Legislator Kevin Holmquist (10th-D) is currently working on an alternative proposal with a phase down approach, where there would be a reduction in village funds for the next five to seven years, and then remain at a 50 percent level until the contract expires.

The county would save $4 million, Olson said -- half of what the county would be saving under Mahoney's plan, which phases out villages entirely after the first five years.

"I'd love that money to come out of, for lack of a better term, the city's money," Holmquist said. "Because I think by any measure, the city of Syracuse is getting more than double what they should be getting in this sales tax agreement, whether you measure this by population, assessed valuation or sales tax receipts."

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