A numbers game

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner made news, and received plaudits from liberal activists like The Working Families Party, earlier this week when she announced she was increasing the minimum wage for all city employees to $15 an hour.

Miner estimates the move will affect 61 of the city’s 1700 employees and cost roughly $220,000 per year. It’s not an eye-popping number, and probably speaks more to the overall high wages of city of Syracuse employees than anything else, but it’s also not chump change. The increase is sure to have an impact, and becomes increasingly questionable when put into context with Miner’s own comments when she submitted her budget last April. From the Syracuse Post Standard (emphasis added):

“Her 2015-16 budget anticipates a $9.2 million deficit, which will have to be paid for out of cash reserves unless city officials can cut costs during the year. That’s the smallest deficit since Miner took office in 2010, but a sign that Syracuse continues to face a fiscal crisis, Miner said Tuesday.”

So, in April Mayor Miner was proposing a budget with a $9.2 million deficit that would be paid either out of a so-called “rainy day fund”, or by cutting costs. Now, just six months later, not only is Mayor Miner not cutting costs, she’s increasing them.

Rainy day funds are supposed to be used, like the name suggests, during dire financial times. Dipping into them to give artificially-inflated wage increases to dozens of city workers seems at best, misguided.

We can’t help but wonder how the people of Syracuse will feel when Miner’s next budget calls for tax increases in order to cover these increased costs.