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DiNapoli: Civic Center Burden On Glens Falls

Comptroller DiNapoli
Lucas Willard

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli was joined by local officials in Glens Falls today to unveil a new report that shows looming fiscal stress on the upstate city.

The comptroller was joined by Mayor Jack Diamond, as well as state senator Betty Little and Assemblymember Dan Stec to discuss DiNapoli’s latest in a series fiscal reports on municipalities across New York.

The numbers show that tax revenue in the city of 14,700 is down, while expenditures are up and growing at a faster rate than the statewide average.

“In our report we note that from 2002 to 2012 the city’s expenditures grew by 4.5 percent annually, higher than the 3.3 percent growth for all cities in the state. By comparison, the city’s revenues increased by only 4.1 percent,” said DiNapoli.

The report gives Glens Falls a fiscal score 44.6, very close to the 45 percent mark of “susceptible to fiscal stress.”

DiNapoli said the financial issues facing the city are compounded by the costs associated with running the Glens Falls Civic Center. In 2013, the city paid approximately $600,000 from its general fund to subsidize the arena.

Earlier this week, the Civic Center was approved for sale by the common council in a public auction later this summer.

Mayor Diamond said the comptroller’s report was a fair assessment.

“We’ve seen a slight increase as far as balanced budgets, so I think we’re stabilizing. We still have a lot of fiscal challengers, but again, if the Civic Center is to be sold it gives us a little breathing room within our budget preparations for the coming year,” said Diamond.

The report also mentions other ways the city is looking to save money, including the mayor’s proposal to explore consolidation of the city’s police force with Warren County. 

Diamond acknowledged the tensions surrounding the police consolidation plan.

“It’s going to be something that’s going to take some time,” said Diamond. “When the report comes back, we’ll take a look at the information, and then we’ll take that information and we’ll sit down and talk about whether this is a good idea, a good concept, or if it’s not going work within the city.”

In recent years, the city has consolidated other services with Warren County, including the dispatch center for city police and county sheriff’s office.

The report says that the city relies on state aid for 10.4 percent of its revenues, less than the statewide average of 18 percent. State aid has declined or been stagnant since the 2008-2009 recession.

State Senator Betty Little gave credit to Diamond and city government for keeping the city’s finances afloat in the years following the recession. She said she’s working with the legislature to restore state aid.

“We’ll do everything we can to help. The aid to localities really hasn’t increased much in recent years, and that’s an area where I think we need to be promoting the city, and more money for cities,” said Little.

DiNapoli did commend Glens Falls in some areas. The city’s median household income and home value are above medians statewide. The child poverty rate is also lower than the statewide average. He also thanked the officials for positive working relationships he’s maintained with them.

DiNapoli said fiscal stress monitoring of local governments will be updated on an annual basis.

“Part of the value of our system is not just to take a snapshot of a point in time, but it will be as the years progress to see what the trends are for certain communities, and certainly for Glens Falls with these different initiatives, we’ll start to see the number go in the other direction,” said DiNapoli

According to the comptroller’s office, 15 of 535 villages, 87 of 700 school districts, and 40 of more than 1,000 local governments face some level of fiscal stress.

For more information visit: http://www.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/pubs/fiscalprofiles/glensfalls.pdf

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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