SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC NEWS) — Onondaga County reports that debt has plateaued over the last year. The end of year report detailing the county debt released Wednesday morning. County Comptroller Matthew Beadnell says that’s due to the good financial year for the county.
“This was a recovery year for the county and so by all measures we did well in 2018,” said Beadnell. “It’s not a normal year by any stretch. We did significantly better than we have in years past.”
Deputy Comptroller Jim Maturo points to a decrease in borrowing for a certain project as a culprit.
“The debt has been leveling off and a big part of that is the clean up of Onondaga Lake is winding down,” said Maturo. “Early on in the lake cleanup, we had a lot of projects and a lot of borrowing for those.”
Going forward, Beadnell and Maturo had their reservations about major projects that Onondaga County executives have floated around. One issue is the sewer system across the entire county. It also comes with a cost.
“One proposed idea is the county controlling sewers as opposed to the towns,” said Beadnell. “That has been estimated to cost $500 million, which is a significant amount of money and would require a lot of bonding.”
The other project is STEAM, which proposes to transform vacated Central Tech High School in Syracuse to a high school focused on science, technology, engineering, arts and math. Beadnell said this could be unfavorable from the county’s perspective.
“The county would be on the hook for debt, while the building itself and the school would be owned by the city,” said Beadnell. “An initial concern is we’re taking on debt without having an asset that we own.”
Maturo echoed these statements on the risks of taking on the sewer and STEAM projects.
“There are some pretty big plans that are being proposed by the County Executive, if it comes to fruition, would be significant spending going forward,” said Maturo.