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      Mahoney calls for property tax reduction in county budget

      Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney has unveiled her budget that calls for a reduction in property taxes county-wide.

      Property taxes would be cut by 2.7% if passed, and it would reduce the levy on taxpayers by $3.1 million. Mahoney told county lawmakers that it's the first time since 1964 that the county tax rate is under $7 per $1,000 assessed value.

      The county faced a $55 million shortfall in the budget, but Mahoney claims that the gap has now been eliminated. She attributes the tax reduction to a new sales tax formula that allows Onondaga County to keep a greater portion of the revenue, as well as reduced personnel cost. She pointed out that more than 300 county workers have opted for early retirement, which will result in an annual savings of $8.2 million in salaries.

      Onondaga County Legislature Chairman James Rhinehart says legislators can't wait to make further cuts in the budget. Rhinehart feels that the property tax rate can be reduced even further.

      Mahoney also announced that she will enter into an agreement with the city of Syracuse to combine purchasing departments and community development. She also hopes to gets the county out of the business of snow plowing by 2012, by reimbursing towns and villages to takeover county owned roads.

      Mahoney is also calling on Albany to reduce state mandated programs which she says causes an unfair burden on local municipalities, especially with Medicaid. "We can't keep our heads above water forever," Mahoney said.

      Democrat Majority Leader Mark Stanczyk says Democrats intend to challenge many of the assumptions in Mahoney's budget. For example, he feels the amount of sales tax revenue has been underestimated. The county is estimating it will collect $288 million in sales tax revenue, an increase of 1.3%.