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State Comptroller: City Of Albany Has High "Fiscal Stress"

Composite Image by Dave Lucas

An annual review by the office of New York Comptroller Tom DiNapoli found the city of Albany ranked among the most financially troubled municipalities in the state.

The number of fiscally-stressed municipalities this year is the lowest since DiNapoli instituted his so-called "early-warning system" in 2013.  The ratings are based on 2016 year-end figures.

DiNapoli spokesman Brian Butry:   "This is the fourth year that we've done fiscal stress scores for municipalities around the state, and what we've seen each year is the number of municipalities that have been labeled or designated as 'fiscally stressed' has declined each year. So that's a positive when we're looking at the financial health of these communities around the state."

According to the comptroller, Albany is one of the most fiscally stressed municipalities in New York. "What we are looking at is their fund balance and their usage of fund balance, the fact that that has declined over a number of years. And what we don't wanna see with many municipalities around the state but definitely with Albany, is kind of a continued reliance on these rainy day reserves to fund your budget, because eventually they may run out and you're left with a significant revenue hole in your budget and the question becomes 'how are you going to fill that?'”

Mayor Kathy Sheehan, whose budget proposal is to be released Monday, says the numbers show Albany’s score improved slightly over the previous year. "This fiscal stress score is completely in line with and consistent with what we have known and what I communicated, I think, very clearly. Which is that we are supposed to build back up our fund balance. And that the surplus that we saw last year, was not because we did not need the $12.5 million. It's because we were able to manage to a surplus. And this fiscal stress score shows that even with that surplus, which was factored in here, we still are under significant fiscal stress. And that's because we need to demonstrate that we can continue to balance the budget and grow fund balance. And that is the path that we are on. But that path must include $12.5 million of permanent aid for the city of Albany so that we can be treated in a more fair manner from the state."

Butry responded "Thankfully, Albany did see an improvement in that over last year, relied a little but less on that and they're trending now toward improving their score once again next year, so that's a good sign I think for the city."

The city of Watervliet along with Broome and Monroe counties joined Albany in the “significant” category. Monroe County has the highest fiscal stress of any municipality in the state.

Municipalities in Stress: Fiscal Years Ending 2016

The Fiscal Stress Monitoring System and resulting fiscal stress designations rely on data (as of 12/31/2016) from annual financial reports submitted by local governments to the Office of the State Comptroller.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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