Public stays away from Onondaga County budget hearing

Before the public forum even started, Onondaga County legislators were ready for a long night Thursday. They expected to hear dozens of people advocating for arts programs or questioning the impact of sales tax redistribution on their property taxes.

Thursday night was the only public hearing where residents could give their opinions on the proposed budget before lawmakers vote on it.

Pat Infantine, the Manlius Library Director, was the first to speak. She was also the last. Seven minutes after the public forum started , it was over.

"I'm just astounded that we had one speaker," Legislator Sam Laguzza said. "It's a 1.4 billion-dollar budget and our community is fine with the way it is? I'm shocked. I think everybody down here is kind of surprised."

Last year, the public hearing on the proposed budget lasted more than seven hours. At that time, job cuts were part of the budget proposal, they are not this year. While only one person showed up to speak Thursday night, legislators say, voters have been sounding off on the proposed budget.

"Rest assured they've been talking to us," Legislator Bill Meyer. "When we're out in the community they're not quiet there. They're very concerned with all their other expenses."

The lone person to speak Thursday night says groups need to advocate for themselves as governments look to cut costs and do more with less. She hoped the legislature would not forget about the importance of libraries.

"I think it's important for them to hear it from those of us who do represent the suburban residents," Infantine said. "Because there are legislators here from the city and all of the suburban districts."

Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney presented her budget to the legislature last month and lawmakers have made changes. The full legislature will vote on the budget proposal next Tuesday.