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The communities were identified by the Comptroller’s Fiscal Stress Monitoring System (FSMS). [In January 2021 the Comptroller issued fiscal stress scores for school districts and found 31 school districts in some level of fiscal stress.] .
The Comptroller releases fiscal stress scores on municipalities (excluding New York City) twice a year. The latest round of scores announced in September 22, 2021, identified 19 local governments designated in fiscal stress, including six counties, four cities, and nine towns. This release is based on financial information of local governments operating on a calendar year basis (Jan. 1 – Dec. 31) for 2020 and covers all counties and towns, 44 cities, and 10 villages. In April 2021 DiNapoli announced that 11 local governments with non-calendar fiscal yearswere in stress.
“New York’s local governments have overcome some major fiscal hurdles during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Comptroller DiNapoli said, explaining that "Federal assistance, the restoration of state aid and resurging revenue have provided them much needed relief." However, cautioned the Comptroller, those designated as stressed are less likely to have the flexibility to adapt to fiscal challenges long term, noting that "local officials must budget and plan carefully to avoid fiscal stress and manage their communities through the uncertainties created by the pandemic.”
In this latest round, the city of Poughkeepsie (fiscal stress score of 78.3), the city of Niagara Falls (72.1), and the town of Caneadea (65.4) are in the highest-ranking designation of “significant stress.” The counties of Suffolk and Westchester, the city of Glen Cove and the town of Yates were in “moderate stress.”
Those designated as being “susceptible to fiscal stress” are the counties of Broome, Monroe, Nassau and Oneida, the towns of Centerville, Clarkstown, Colonie, Fort Covington, Pulteney, Sherman and Southport, and the city of Albany.
Of the 30 total governments in a fiscal stress designation for 2020, 17 were also in some form of fiscal stress in 2019. Four cities that were in “significant fiscal stress” in both years are Niagara Falls, Poughkeepsie, Amsterdam and Long Beach.
The Comptroller’s Fiscal Stress Monitoring System was implemented in 2013 to keep the public informed about the factors impacting local governments’ financial health. The system evaluates local governments on financial indicators including year-end fund balance, cash-on-hand, short-term borrowing, fixed costs and patterns of operating deficits and creates fiscal stress scores.
The system also evaluates information such as population trends, poverty and unemployment in order to establish a separate “environmental” score for each municipality which can be used to help describe the context in which these local governments operate.
The Comptroller’s report also found:
- In response to COVID-19, many local officials made difficult mid-year 2020 budget decisions about how best to meet their community’s service needs with reduced or less predictable revenues, while protecting public health and minimizing cuts to their own workforce.
- Rebounding monthly sales tax collections in much of the state supported local governments’ bottom lines, with many counties outside of New York City seeing only slight losses for 2020 overall compared with 2019, and collections in some counties even growing for the year.
- 173 local governments did not receive a fiscal stress score for fiscal year ending 2020. The vast majority of these (169) did not file in time to be scored, including the cities of Beacon, Dunkirk, Ithaca, Johnstown, Little Falls, Mechanicville, Mount Vernon, Rensselaer and Salamanca; and Greene and Ontario counties.