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DiNapoli releases list of New York’s ‘fiscally stressed’ communities

By Eric Reinhardt

Date:

Six communities in a 16-county region of Central New York are among two dozen areas that State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has designated as “fiscally stressed” under the comptroller’s new fiscal-stress monitoring system.

DiNapoli’s monitoring system evaluates local governments on 23 financial and environmental indicators and creates an overall fiscal-condition score.

Indicators include cash-on-hand and patterns of operating deficits, along with broader demographic information such as population trends and tax-assessment growth, the state comptroller’s said in a news release.

The scores are used to classify if a community is in “significant fiscal stress,” “moderate fiscal stress,” “susceptible to fiscal stress,” or “no designation.”

With a score of 55.8 percent, the city of Fulton in Oswego County is listed last among six communities determined to have “moderate stress,” or those with scores greater than or equal to 55 percent of total points.

Five area communities are among the dozen areas listed as “susceptible to fiscal stress,” with a score greater than or equal to 45 percent of total points. Broome County tops the list with a score of 54.6 percent, and Cayuga County is at the bottom with a score of 45.4 percent.

The “susceptible” group also includes the towns of Clare and Clifton in St. Lawrence County and the town of Lyonsdale in Lewis County.

No areas of Central New York are designated as having “significant stress,” according to the state comptroller’s office.

The challenges facing local governments have reached a “critical point” and these fiscal stress scores should serve as a “wakeup call,” DiNapoli said in the news release.

“Taxpayers, local officials and state policymakers need an objective analysis to help them understand the economic and budgetary challenges facing our communities. My office’s monitoring system was designed to do just that. We have identified local governments from every region of this state that are facing some level of fiscal stress and presented them with a realistic picture of their financial condition,” the state comptroller added.

DiNapoli based the initial fiscal-stress list on financial information that local communities provided to his office as of May 31, and includes only municipalities with fiscal years ending on Dec. 31, 2012.

In New York, all counties and towns, 44 cities and 10 villages have a Dec. 31 fiscal year-end, or a total of 1,043 communities, according to the state comptroller’s office.

DiNapoli began to focus on fiscal stress in 2012 after his office noticed a number of “alarming” trends among local governments, his office said.

For instance, DiNapoli’s auditors found that nearly 300 local governments had deficits in recent years, and more than 100 had inadequate cash on hand to pay their current bills.

DiNapoli’s office drafted the “early-warning” monitoring system last September and shared details with the state’s local governments and school districts for their review during a 60-day comment period.

More than 100 local government and school district officials, and a number of affiliated organizations, provided feedback, according to DiNapoli’s office.

DiNapoli has also released a report examining fiscal-stress drivers and how municipalities can address fiscal stress.

The report details the primary factors that could jeopardize local-government finances, such as operating deficits, increasing fixed costs, poor-economic conditions, and long-term demographic shifts.

It also identifies which classes and types of government that the system is most likely to designate as fiscally stressed. Additionally, the report reviews many of the steps local officials can take to avoid fiscal stress, including the use of a number of resources available through the state comptroller’s office.

 

Contact Reinhardt at ereinhardt@cnybj.com

 

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