Localities escape ‘fiscal stress’ list

No localities in Fulton, Montgomery or Hamilton counties are facing significant “fiscal stress,” according to a report from the state comptroller’s office.

Some localities, such as the towns of Broadalbin and Mayfield, have some percentage of fiscal stress, but not enough to be placed in a category of stress, according to state data.

To be placed in a category of fiscal stress, a municipality’s percentage would have to reach 45 percent, according to state Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli’s Fiscal Stress Monitoring System.

Gloversville had a score of zero percent.

Gloversville Mayor Dayton King was pleased his city was not categorized.

“It feels fantastic,” King said. “Last year, the comptroller was up here and talked about other cities under distress, and to be a year later and not on that list due to conservative budgeting and our local officials working hard to put money in our general fund to set it up next year to give some of that money back to the taxpayers feels fantastic.”

Despite Gloversville being off the fiscal stress list, Gloversville property owners pay the highest tax rate found in any city in the state, according to a report by the Empire Center for New York State Policy.

Residents of the city and Gloversville Enlarged School District pay a combined city, school and Fulton County tax rate of $52.40 per $1,000 of assessed value, the study showed. The median home value in Gloversville is $70,600, and the annual tax on that property would be $3,699, the study shows.

King said his budget for 2014 will propose a 2 percent decrease in taxes.

He said this will be accomplished by decreasing some of the city’s expenses while increasing revenue from more businesses in the city.

The statewide fiscal monitoring system identifies local governments experiencing fiscal stress.

The goal of the system is to inform municipal leaders and taxpayers of the economic and budgetary challenges

facing their locality so measures can be taken to avoid fiscal crisis, according to the comptroller’s office.

The monitoring system evaluates local governments on 23 financial and environmental indicators that include cash on hand, patterns of operating deficits, population trends and tax assessment growth.

The indicators are used to create an overall fiscal stress score and classify whether a community is in “significant fiscal stress,” “moderate fiscal stress,” “susceptible to fiscal stress” or “no designation.”

Some localities had percentages related to fiscal stress, but all were too low to be designated in a category.

For example, Broadalbin scored a 19.2 percent while Mayfield scored 16.3 percent. Montgomery County had a score of 41.7 percent.

Brian Butry, a spokesman for the comptroller’s office, said things that factor into the percentages can be a low fund balance or operating deficit, or a history of debt. If the score is lower than 45 percent, the issues tend to be relatively minor, he said.

The city of Johnstown is among the municipalities that have not yet turned in an annual update document to the comptroller’s office.

“We will contact them and work with the local officials to get that in,” Butry said.

Butry said municipalities are required to file their financial information, and although there are no official repercussions for not doing so, it can hurt the municipality in a number of ways.

He said Moody’s Investors Services cited lack of financial filing in its downgrades of some ratings for municipalities.

Butry said the Governor’s Restructuring Board set aside money to provide grants to local governments that meet certain financial criteria, and if a municipality doesn’t report, it automatically is eliminated from receiving any of those grants.

“The biggest problem for local officials is it raises some red flags about do they have an accurate portrayal of their finances and do taxpayers know what’s going on in a municipality if they’re not filing,” Butry said.