Strings attached'

Six months ago, after monitoring Onondaga County's revamped sales tax sharing agreement with the county's 15 villages, Liverpool Mayor Gary White knew the county would share far less than the $550,000 it had annually forwarded to the village over the past decade.

But he didn't know the resolution passed by the County Legislature on May 4 had stipulated how the money had to be spent.

"We were supposed to get $281,000 per year" for the next 10 years, White reminded village trustees at their Nov. 15 meeting. That figure represents Liverpool's share of $4 million annually which the county will now share with its villages.

On Nov. 15, however, White and mayors across the county were informed by Onondaga County Chief Fiscal Officer James Rowley that their portion of the sales tax revenue must be spent on "infrastructure projects."

"So now we see that this money's coming with a lot of strings attached," White said.

Rowley's letter was a big surprise, the mayor said.

"My understanding is that the money cannot be used for our general fund," White said. "That was never explained at the time of the agreement."

The Legislature's resolution states that, "The infrastructure grant provided by the county for the purpose of assisting the village in undertaking projects involving public improvements designed to enhance and promote regional growth, particularly improvements that reduce undesirable sprawl and encompass green technology and sustainable growth."

Villages have until Jan. 1 to submit their infrastructure plans, which must be personally approved by County Executive Joanie Mahoney. Village Trustee Nick Kochan said the stipulations are the result of "executive fiat."

Two days after the board of trustees meeting, White met with the Onondaga County Association of Mayors in Solvay.

"The rest of the mayors are just as concerned about this as I am," he said. "This is a big can of worms we've got to deal with."

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