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County cutting corners

"Even that's bad, but at least it's real money," she said.

The Pretenders

But Mahoney's chief concern were the increases in estimated revenue from sales tax revenue, room occupancy taxes and other revenues, from Mahoney's 1.1 percent to 3 percent.

"We put in a responsible amount of money that we think we're going to get in sales tax ... and they just simply said, 'we think there's going to be $5 million more,'" Mahoney said.

Jordan, though, said the increase is more realistic without being risky.

"Based on what's happened in 2010, we felt 3 percent was certainly a very realistic number," Jordan said. "They're using what we think are unusually low or conservative estimates for certain numbers, and we think we've raised those numbers in accordance with what's forecasted."

He also pointed out that tourism is expected to pick up in 2011, citing the national women's bowling tournament that is expected to bring 44,000 tourists and competitors to Onondaga County.

Mahoney's not convinced.

"Onondaga County hasn't done it this way. These are the kinds of things that they do in Albany and in Washington, and it causes trouble," she said.

Two birds, one budget

Jordan admitted that while some of the committee's suggestions are one-time fixes, it doesn't mean they are short-term.

Selling the helicopter, for example, would be a one-time windfall but in coming years would eliminate the annual operating costs budgeted for the chopper, costs that are estimated to range from $700,000 a year to more than $1 million.

"It seems like it's a very expensive tool that we have for not a great deal of usage, and I don't know that at this point in time we can really afford it," Jordan said.

He suggested the duties currently covered by the county helicopter could be picked up by Mercy Flight, an air ambulance helicopter that already takes 200 to 300 calls a year in Syracuse, and the state police.

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