By Lauren Zeugner
SYRACUSE — The Syracuse Town Council made quick work of approving a number of resolutions and ordinances associated with Polywood’s expansion during its regular meeting Tuesday night, July 21. This was the first time the council met in person since the state shut down due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Among the resolutions approved were a confirmatory resolution approving tax abatement on a current construction project at Polywood; a confirmatory resolution approving Polywood purchasing the Harold Schrock Athletic Complex as well as providing a 10 year traditional abatement for both real estate and personal property on the new manufacturing facility that will be built on the site.
The board also approved establishing a new tax increment finance district for Polywood as well as approving the issuance of bonds to assist in the development of the new ball park which will be located at Black Walnut Farm on Kern Road.
The board also approved a memorandum of understanding for enrolling in the Tax Refund Exchange and Compliance System program with the state.
The board also approved a transfer appropriation moving $30,000 from capital improvement to professional services.
The council had its first look at the 2021 budgets. The proposed 2021 budget is $4,597,680, a decrease of $389,782. The 2020 budget was $4,975,672. The estimated tax levy for Syracuse in 2021 is $2,228,056.78. The town’s estimated 2021 budget is $51,147 under the maximum levy.
Councilman Bill Musser attended the meeting via phone and asked Paula Kehr-Wicker, clerk-treasurer, if the town should expect cuts from the state that need to be taken into consideration for the 2021 budget.
Kehr-Wicker said the anticipated tax revenue decreases will occur within 2-3 years from now and will affect line items such as the street department since there won’t be as much money collected from the gas tax when the state was shut down.
Kehr-Wicker also noted the town typically comes in well below its maximum tax levy. Explaining she studied the town’s growth quotient, which is what the revenue the town can ask for. Kehr-Wicker noted it has never been less than 2.4% during the last decade, so she estimated the 2021 budgets using the 2.4 % growth quotient as a guide. The state came back with a growth quotient of 4%.
Councilman Larry Siegel pointed out the town is already close to the maximum tax rate due to the property tax circuit breaker. It will soon come to a point where the town will have difficulty raising tax revenue unless there is more housing and more companies coming in to do business.
Kehr-Wicker pointed out she did not ask for a 4% increase, instead she attempted to lower the town’s tax rate.
In reviewing the clerk-treasurer’s 2021 budget, the council recommended she not hire a fourth employee as she requested. Instead, she’ll have her current staff work overtime.
In the street department budget, Mike Noe, town manager and public works superintendent, noted there is equipment that needs to be replaced and he would like to establish a staggered schedule to replace equipment in a timely manner in the future.
Council President Paul Stoelting asked for a list of equipment Noe anticipated replacing next year. Kehr-Wicker suggested an asset depreciation list be provided to the council.
Chad Jonsson, park superintendent, explained a $13,000 increase is to cover overtime for staff working events.
In the town manager’s budget, Musser questioned Noe administrative assistant making $15,000 more than last year. Kehr-Wicker explained that amount is split over four different departments: town, street, water and waste water. It was also noted Noe’s administrative assistant has worked for the town for 23 years.
Chief Mickey Scott noted the operating budget for the Turkey Creek Fire Territory dropped $32,000 since Turkey Creek Township agreed to pay hazardous duty pay from its rainy day fund.
The fire department will also be replacing some equipment which is 10-15 years old. The new fire truck should be delivered sometime in August. The department will then attempt to sell the old truck, but Scott said he wasn’t sure anyone would want a 20-year-old truck.
The fire territory’s operating budget is $1,986,606 while the equipment budget is $151,000. The council approved the fire territory budget.
Scott also told the council he already has quotes on the equipment that needs to be replaced. He informed the council employees are regularly screened for COVID-19 and wear N95 masks on all calls. They wear face shields if they have to intubate someone or are dealing with other bodily fluids.