The $123 million allocated to the City of Syracuse from the Federal Government gives us an opportunity to invest in our city to reach our potential. There has been much discussion on how this money should be spent within the guidelines given by the federal government. Some of these ideas have merit but cannot be implemented because of federal rules. Likewise, there are many other ideas circulating that are performative in nature without giving any real benefit to our city and its potential to build back better. We must address the economic disparities that are even more pressing as a result of the impact this gruesome pandemic has had on our citizens.
The City of Syracuse has struggled with inefficient management that prioritizes grandiose ideas over responsibility and tangible results. This $123 million allocation should be used to get concrete results and provide support to the most vulnerable in our community. It would be irresponsible for the city, acting on behalf of the taxpayer first and foremost, to not use this money to address our structural budget deficit. I propose using $60 million allocated from the federal government to replenish the City reserve fund to help balance the budget over the next 7-10 years, until economic development projects in the city generates tax revenue sufficient to balance the city budget in the long run. Balancing our budget will ease burdens of the taxpayers who too often are left scrambling when they are hit with unexpected property tax hikes.
However, there are many other ways in which we can practically use the remaining money to provide tangible results to everyone in our community. There should be $20 million allocated to build new and in-fill housing to revitalize our neighborhoods. Creating livable and affordable housing throughout the city will stimulate more owner-occupied housing to bring dignity to families while instilling pride and community once again in our neighborhoods.
Syracuse must invest $15 million toward the establishment of municipal broadband immediately. As the pandemic has highlighted, broadband is a necessity rather than a luxury. Every home requires reliable broadband for education, work, and connections with the outside world and only city-owned broadband will ensure it is available to all citizens.
Additionally, there must be a $10 million revolving loan fund for small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Local and family-owned businesses are among those who have been hit hardest. To ensure that Syracuse continues to empower all our residents we must provide for those who employ our citizens and give so much back to our community.
To ensure our infrastructure receives some of its desperately needed improvements, there should be $9 million allocated toward water pipe repairs. Similarly, if the rules allow (which is currently unclear), another $5 million should be allocated to a Municipal Sidewalk Program that is well thought out and provides necessary provisions for those on fixed incomes.
$2 million should be given to the Land Bank for maintenance, rehabilitation, and demolitions as they require, and $2 million should be allocated to the Landmark Theater for critical repairs. Organizations like these that give so much back to our community deserve our help.
Further strategic investments will grow local employment and generate local property tax
revenues to support essential city services.
Onondaga County, responsible for social service administration for both the city and the suburbs, should direct much of their $89 million in ARPA Funds to shore up and support social service programs, not only is it their charge but it is always best to leave important decisions to those who are most familiar with the circumstances at hand.
These recommendations come from my understanding of the issues in our community from decades of experience in public service at the state and local levels. It is my sincere desire to empower the people of Syracuse with this once in a generation opportunity to invest wisely in our city and in our people to improve their long-term potential…starting now