Shaping the Future of Syracuse and Onondaga County

Consensus Announces Kick-off of Community Conversation on Future Priorities in Local Governance

SYRACUSE, NY – Consensus, the commission on local government modernization, launched a series of community conversations across Onondaga County on the future of local governance. A special meeting was held in the City Hall Commons Atrium on Wednesday, March 11, from 12:15 to 1:30pm. and Southwest Community Center, Thursday, March 12, 2015 6:00 pm

This was the first of several events which will be held throughout the county to engage the public and gain input following the release of the commission’s countywide baseline review of local government services. Onondaga County is the first location in New York to undertake this kind of review and community conversation.

For those unable to attend the previously held March sessions, the commission has also announced additional meetings:

DeWitt Community Library,
Shoppingtown Mall
Tuesday, March 24, 2015 at 6:00 pm

Salina Town Hall
Tuesday, March 31, 2015 at 6:00 pm

Future meetings will be shared with the news media and via

“Connecting with the community and getting participants to share their thoughts and perspectives is critical for the commission to create the best recommendations,” said Melanie Littlejohn, regional executive director of National Grid, and chair of the public engagement committee for Consensus. “We want to hear from people across our county because this community belongs to all of us and, ultimately we will all be impacted by the resulting recommendations.”

The kick-off session, featuring a special presentation by Dr. Joseph Stefko, of the Center for Governmental Research, will detail the commission’s newly published Consensus Baseline Review: Who Does What & What it Costs.” Preliminary Baselone Review Pic

“Through this series of events we hope the community will come learn about where we are right now, help provide some creative ideas around where we can and should be, and how we get there,” said James Walsh, co-chairman of Consensus. “It is important for us to make sure we get to the right recommendations and to do so we must have significant engagement from this community.”

The Baseline Review revealed government structure in Onondaga County including the number and types of local government, the costs associated with those governments and the nature and extent of services delivered by various types of local governments.

“The Baseline Review provided a detailed snapshot of our local government, its structure, costs and benefits,” said Neil Murphy, co-chairman of Consensus. “Now is the time to have a thoughtful community-wide dialogue about this data and begin exploring a wide range of solutions to make government easier to use, more responsive, more cost effective, provide better services, and ultimately achieve better outcomes.”

Consensus Region

“Click” on Map to enlarge

Data included in the Baseline Review includes:

Government: Onondaga County’s local government includes one county, one city, nineteen towns and fifteen villages. There are 37 different local government permutations in Onondaga County with 36 elected executives and 174 elected legislators.

Taxes: There are 17 property tax assessment units in Onondaga County, based primarily at the town and city level. Onondaga County ranks 14th nationally in property taxes as a percentage of home value and in 2013, local governments across Onondaga County collected more than $320 million in total property taxes. Across all local governments in Onondaga County, sales and property taxes accounted for 41% of total revenues in 2013.

Public Works: Local governments in Onondaga County spent a combined $140.9 million on public works services in 2013. The Metropolitan Water Board, OCWA and Syracuse Water Department collectively supply water to approximately 90% of Onondaga County residents. The region is served by 36 public works departments; the smallest is responsible for 1 mile of road; the largest has 794 miles.

Judicial & Court Services: Onondaga’s county, city, town and village governments spent a combined $18.3 million on judicial and court services in 2013. In NY, county and city court costs are state-funded, but town and village courts are funded at the municipal level. There are 28 justice courts across Onondaga County. Each of the 19 towns and nine of the 15 villages has its own.

Fire: Local governments in Onondaga County spent a combined $60.8 million on fire protection services in 2013. The fire departments serving Onondaga County collectively responded to more than 44,000 calls for service in 2013. The 57 fire departments serving Onondaga County include 28 independent companies, 10 municipal departments and 19 fire district-based departments. Seventeen of Onondaga County’s 19 towns are served by more than one fire department.

Police: The service areas patrolled by Onondaga County’s 14 police departments range in size from 0.6 square-miles to 49.6 square-miles. In Onondaga County, 14 of 19 towns and seven of 15 villages rely on the County Sheriff as their primary law enforcement agency.

Health: Public health services were the fifth-highest local government cost center in Onondaga County in 2013, at $66.5 million.

Library: The Onondaga County Public Library system spans the Central Library, eight city branches, two satellites and 21 suburban libraries.

Parks: Local governments in Onondaga County spent a combined $15.7 million on parks services in 2013.

Consensus has actively engaged more than 500 people in its work, to date, including local officials and interested community groups. Over the next few months, the commission will continue to seek significant public participation.

“There is a lot of enthusiasm for the work that is being done and in many cases we are not starting a new conversation but instead advancing an ongoing dialogue,” said Catherine Richardson, co-chairman of Consensus. “We want to continue to these conversations and openly exchange ideas. This community has the opportunity to drive real actions leading to real change and I am proud of the work that has been done to date.”

In addition to the sixteen community and business leaders, and the three co-chairs leading Consensus there is broad support from community partners including: SYRACUSE 20/20, CenterState CEO, FOCUS Greater Syracuse, the League of Women Voters of Syracuse Metropolitan Area, Onondaga Citizens League and the Homebuilders & Remodelers Association of CNY.

Bi-partisan support for the creation of the commission and the work it will do on behalf of Onondaga County residents includes a $250,000 state grant secured by State Senator John A. DeFrancisco, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and supported by State Senator David J. Valesky. Additional support for Consensus has been provided by the following foundations: Allyn Foundation; Gifford Foundation; Reisman Foundation; Snow Foundation; and The Central New York Community Foundation.

The commission is expected to make its recommendations by the end of 2015.

To learn more about Consensus, visit:

Consensus Commission Members:


Cornelius (Neil) B. Murphy, Former President, SUNY ESF
M. Catherine Richardson, Retired Attorney, Bond, Schoeneck & King, PLLC
James T. Walsh, Government Affairs Counselor, K&L Gates LLP


Aminy I.Audi, L. & J.G. Stickley, Inc.
Laurence G. Bousquet, Bousquet Holstein PLLC
William M. Byrne, Byrne Dairy
Mark Nicotra, Town of Salina
Donna DeSiato, East Syracuse-Minoa Central School District
Darlene Kerr, Retired President, Niagara Mohawk
Patrick Kilmartin, Onondaga County Legislature
Melanie W. Littlejohn, National Grid
Andrew Maxwell, Syracuse-Onondaga County Planning Agency
Stephen Meyer, Welch Allyn, Inc.
Dennis Nave, CNY Physician Teamster Alliance
Mark Olson, Village of Fayetteville
Sharon F. Owens, Syracuse Model Neighborhood Facility
Ann Rooney, Onondaga County
Chad Ryan, Syracuse Common Council
Bea Gonzalez, Syracuse University