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      Tax hikes and Air-1, County budget up for vote

      The Onondaga County Legislature meets Tuesday afternoon to adopt a 2012 budget that is expected to raise property taxes in 13 of the county's 19 towns.

      The $1.2 billion budget proposed by Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney calls for raising $153.8 million dollars through the property tax levy. Over the last several weeks, legislators have proposed trimming that levy by $4.9 million. That would reduce, but not eliminate, tax increases in those 13 towns. The county tax levy in the City of Syracuse would decrease under the spending plan.

      The first item on the agenda is a resolution calling upon the Governor and State Legislature to "provide relief to County taxpayers from costs associated with State mandates." Those mandates, including Medicaid, account for a major portion of the County budget.

      Conspicuously absent from the budget is funding for the Onondaga County Sheriff's Department's helicopter, Air-1. Sheriff Kevin Walsh has been lobbying legislators in hopes of restoring money for Air-1, but many feel taxpayers can no longer afford the nearly $600 thousand needed to keep the chopper flying.

      Walsh has recently established an Air-1 foundation to raise private donations for the helicopter. He is also attempting to establish a means to bill insurance companies for medevac transports as well as charge surrounding police agencies for the use of Air-1.

      Do you feel legislators should leave out funding for Air-1?