Onondaga County lawmakers may just be bringing the Syracuse Jazz Fest one step closer to reality for this summer. The group’s ways and means committee on Tuesday approved a measure that would match county funds to the $125,000 the city of Syracuse has already pledged to the event. Lawmaker Brian May supports using a portion of the room occupancy tax budget to help businesses that will benefit.
“We’ve heard a bit about the hospitality industry over the past week. Wonderful that this is a possibility…” said May. “But to allocate those funds, I think it’s really, really important that we invest or target a certain amount of them to make sure the event is also trying to bring people into our community.”
A number of lawmakers have echoed what community members are saying: that they yearn for a return to normalcy. And Jazz Fest would be one of them. However, Mary Kuhn would like to see the county go further with the Room Tax — or ROT — account.
“When we have a surplus of ROT [Room Occupancy Tax], that’s where our arts are funded. Perpetual is the time…” said Kuhn. “…Whether we’re talking about museums, we’re talking about theatre, we’re talking about music. So hopefully, I’d like to put it on the table, that we have to reflect also on our CNY Arts who have also suffered.
Some of his colleagues agree and wonder if a commitment is made to Jazz Fest, other events should also be supported. Funding would need to be approved by the full legislature before it is final. That vote would take place early next month. Jazz Fest organizer Frank Malfitano is also seeking financial support from the state in order to have a sufficient budget to organize the event.
The committee is also considering borrowing up to $1.1 billion to relocate the county’s emergency operations center. Deputy County Executive Ann Rooney says the current location, in the basement of the Civic Center, could become problematic at the height of an emergency.
“What we’ve seen with the pandemic, it’s really important that our command center be located offsite. Although it is convenient that it is in the basement of the civic center, in case of an emergency that could affect downtown Syracuse. It doesn’t make sense to have your emergency operations in the basement of that same building,” said Rooney.
She adds that Congressman John Katko is trying to bring in an additional $1 million for the project from Washington. Rooney told county lawmakers that if the federal money didn’t come in, they wouldn’t borrow locally.