East Syracuse Newly elected mayor Robert Tackman hasn’t had much time to take a breath since he was elected on March 19. His first task as mayor? To create a budget in a village that is facing its “most difficult financial year ever.” The village has been carrying a large debt since the renovations on its municipal building were completed in December 2004. Additionally, last October, taxpayers voted to keep the village’s police department, which, if eliminated, could have saved East Syracuse over $1 million each year.
The financial strain can’t be attributed 100 percent to the village itself- health insurance, retirement and pension costs have all been raised by the state this year, and last year, all municipalities saw a substantial increase in workers’ compensation coverage. All of those factors, added with the debt the village is carrying, will make for some tough cuts by the board this year.
East Syracuse village clerk Pat Derby said that although this is the toughest year she’s seen for a budget, she wouldn’t call it a financial crisis. But she does predict that residents can expect their tax rate (which is already one of the highest in the county at $13.50 per $1000 of assessed value) to raise.
“When the decision was made to keep the police department, the taxpayers made that decision to carry the most expensive department that municipal government has,” Derby said. “A lot of local governments don’t have police departments anymore – they’re just too expensive. I think when we tax the people, they might come to a different conclusion than they did last October.”
At the board’s April 1 meeting, Derby brought up the possibility that a state task force may be sent to the village to help the board develop its budget. She said the task force is comprised of people who would come in and take a look at the village’s operations and make recommendations about the budget based on their findings. The purpose of this group is to identify warning signs so a municipality can avoid a financial crisis.