New York State Comptroller Releases Fiscal Stress List

Sep 27, 2019
Originally published on September 27, 2019 12:23 pm

Twenty-five of New York state’s local governments are in some form of fiscal stress, according to a new report by the state comptroller.

Democratic Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli says nearly six million New Yorkers live in a community struggling with fiscal stress. Assistant Comptroller Tracey Hitchen Boyd with the Division of Local Government and School Accountability says DiNapoli's Fiscal Stress Monitoring System, rolled out in 2013, acts as a red flag for communities drifting toward red ink.   "On the heels of the Great Recession, when we were seeing local governments, and even some states falter fiscally, people within New York state were asking 'could that happen here, and what are we doing to avoid those issues?' And the comptroller asked our division to analyze local government fiscal stability and come up with an early-warning system that would identify local governments  before they got to the point of serious financial troubles."

Hitchen Boyd says headlines seem to indicate that the numbers of local governments appear to be stabilizing... "...but when you scratch the surface, you'll see there's news there in that the specific local governments that are experiencing stress change from year to year and also the level of stress that they're in changes from year to year.  I would mention that our report recenlty speeaks to how, in a number of the regions in the area that stress appears to have been reduced, but for the Mohawk Valley, where we saw a significant increase this year in local governments in stress."

DiNapoli’s list is based on analysis of data compiled from annual financial reports local governments submit. The system evaluates those governments on financial indicators, including fixed costs, short-term borrowing and cash-on-hand, which help determine fiscal stress scores.

Hitchen Boyd notes a Montgomery County municipality tops the report's “significant fiscal stress” list with a score of 85.  "The city of Amsterdam reported their financials to our office for the first time in a few years within the necessary time frame to be scored under the Fiscal Stress Monitoring System. That in itself is a bit of a red flag, and we've been working with the city to comply with their reporting requirements. But the fact that they scored where they did would indicate that they are among the entities in New York State, among the cities towns and villages and counties that are among the most stressed. And essentially, the components of their score would indicate that they have low fund balance, for example, that means that they have relatively little financial flexibility to address any future uncertainties on their fiscal horizon."

Amsterdam City Controller Matthew Agresta:   "We've taken all the, I think, necessary steps to ensure that if some emergency did arise that we would be able to account for and handle, whatever that may be. The long term goal would be to ensure that going forward, the city of Amsterdam has a healthy fund balance in all its operating funds, which, at this point, we do not, but have been taking steps to start moving in that direction.

Another Mohawk Valley town, German Flatts, is second on the stress list with a score of 81.7. In the Hudson Valley, the City of Poughkeepsie and Westchester County appear on the “significant stress” list, scoring 71.7 and 69.6, respectively.

For a list of municipalities in stress for fiscal year ending in 2018:

https://www.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/fiscalmonitoring/localgovernments/pdf/2018/munis-stressed.pdf

To sort fiscal scores by year and entity name, visit:

http://wwe1.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/fiscalmonitoring/fsms.cfm

For more detailed information about the Comptroller’s fiscal stress monitoring system, visit:

https://www.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/fiscalmonitoring/index.htm

For municipalities that have not filed or designated inconclusive, visit:

https://www.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/fiscalmonitoring/localgovernments/pdf/2018/not-filed.pdf

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