Comptroller Warns Mechanicville Fiscally Stressed

Oct 2, 2014

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli recently released a report detailing the most fiscally stressed communities in the state, and one city in Saratoga County is near the top of the list.

In late September, the comptroller’s office released a report developed through DiNapoli’s Fiscal Stress Monitoring System, showing about three dozen municipalities in New York are fiscally stressed.

A version of the report was also released last year. This year’s made determinations based on the 2013 fiscal year.

In a release, DiNapoli said New York’s local governments face “daunting” fiscal challenges, and said the “scores should serve as a starting point for frank discussions at the local level so actions can be taken before a fiscal crisis develops.”

The City of Mechanicville was among 10 entities in the “significant fiscal stress” category.

Mayor Dennis Baker, who began his first term in January, said he had been aware of the city’s financial struggles before he ran for office, and has been working closely with the city’s commissioners to build the city’s fund balance.

“I don’t have a commissioner here that did not realize the gravity of the situation, and they’ve all worked to improve their budgets and to save money this year, and all of that has helped us get into a better position.”

Baker said at a city council meeting Wednesday, city Finance Commissioner Jodie Gilheany revealed numbers over the past year that show the city is working to get itself off the “significant” list.

“In August of 2013 the city had $80,000 on hand. After doing some things we had to do and get to a better spot, this year we had almost $900,000 in August.”

The City of Poughkeepsie is also among the 10 entities designated with the highest amount of fiscal stress.

The Town of Colonie this year managed to get itself off the “signicant” list and into the “moderate fiscal stress” category, the second highest ranking.

Town supervisor Paula Mahan said when she came into office in 2008, Colonie had no fund balance. After paying off debts, the town began to build up its coffers in 2011. Mahan said the town’s balance now sits at around $2.4 million.

“We’re looking at incremental changes, and that’s a big jump for us, and we’re very pleased with that,” said Mahan.

Mahan said the town has become involved in more long-term planning. It’s now in year seven of a comprehensive plan. Colonie has also explored sharing more services with its neighbors in Albany County, but there are some other issues that will continue to present fiscal challenges.

“The big cost, I should say, it’s infrastructure. And we have major plans in place that are longterm – five-, 10-year plans – for our sewer department, our water department, and our highway department – so that’s one thing we don’t want to see get left behind, because those are very, very large costs when things break down.”

Also in the Capital Region, the Town of Coeymans was listed under the “moderate” category.

The report found the most common indicators among stressed communities are increases in child poverty, high unemployment, and decreases in state and federal aid.

When data from the report was combined with earlier evaluations from non-calendar year villages, for FY 2013, 50 municipalities in New York were found to be in fiscal stress.  It was also found that downstate communities are more than twice as likely as upstate communities to be in financial stress. 87 school districts were also found to be in fiscal stress.