New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli is out with his first set of municipal fiscal stress scores based on his office’s new Fiscal Stress Monitoring System. The numbers were revealed during a teleconference today.
Using data already at hand, the study looked at more than 1,000 governments across the state and ranked them based on 23 financial indicators, including cash on hand, operating deficits and demographics. It found that eight counties, three cities and 13 towns showed a pattern of deficits and too little cash to pay bills. DiNapoli says the system is designed to identify financial problems before they reach crisis levels.
The Albany County town of Colonie ranked as one of the most fiscally stressed municipalities in the state, no surpise to Supervisor Paula Mahan, who already has a 10-year recovery plan in place.
Monroe County ranked as the most fiscally stressed local government in the state. Ramapo was second. The Rockland County town fathers were outraged. Officials would not go on tape but did release a statement criticizing the finding. "The report is based on incomplete, unaudited and misleading information provided by a now suspended Finance Department employee facing disciplinary charges for attempting to falsify Town records of her paramour and lying under oath. In an apparent attempt to embarrass the Town, she failed to disclose to the comptroller over $3.5 million in anticipated revenue. Her conduct was discovered too late to correct the Comptroller’s report."
DiNapoli's office responded to a request for comment after this story first aired:
"The Comptroller's office did a thorough review of the financial information submitted by local governments, including comparing prior year submissions, before giving local governments a fiscal score. While the information submitted by the Town of Ramapo was certified by the mayor prior to submission to our office, we will take any new information they provide us into account."
The Ramapo letter adds, "The Office of the Comptroller has indicated it will review and revise its determination of fiscal distress when the certified audit is completed." The comptroller wants financially stressed communities to avail themselves of an array of services from his office, including budget reviews and multi-year financial planning.
The report included only municipalities whose fiscal year ended Dec. 31st. It lists Albany and Saratoga Counties as under “moderate stress” while Rensselaer County is “susceptible” to stress.
Eighteen communities are listed as being “under review” by DiNapoli including the city of Poughkeepsie, and the counties of Rockland, Ulster, Suffolk and Nassau.