The state comptroller's office has taken a look at cities and towns across the state and has found a number of them are under significant fiscal stress. As Capital Tonight's Nick Reisman reports, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli says this is an early detection system designed to help communities get back on their feet.
NEW YORK STATE -- More local governments are facing fiscal stress, according to an early warning system devised by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli's office. New data from municipalities around the state showed more counties, cities, towns and villages facing chronic budget troubles.
"I think it underscores that this is a continuing issue for us all to be concerned about," DiNapoli said.
The updated list adds Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island, as well as Erie and Rockland, to the list of stressed local governments. Criteria includes whether the local government has expended its rainy day fund, has chronic deficits and increasing fixed costs year after year.
DiNapoli said, "It's interesting when you look at the profile. Counties seem to be the level of municipality where we have the greatest number of stress. It's about 25 percent of the counties."
The scoring system is designed to provide for an early warning system of sorts in order to flag communities that face budget troubles and find ways to fix them before a financial crisis could get out of hand. DiNapoli noted the number of local governments facing stress is relatively low.
"Based on our scoring, it's a relatively small universe. But what we want to make sure is that we do not have any municipality in our state get to the point of full financial collapse," DiNapoli said.
But more officials in Albany are paying attention to the plight of local governments whose budgets have been battered by the great recession. Earlier this week, the newly created Fiscal Restructuring Board met for the first time. The panel's goal is to help local governments solve their budget troubles.
"I think what's happening in Michigan and California and Illinois and other states around the country is definitely a wakeup call about making sure our localities are safe and sound," said Robert Megna, Division of Budget Director.
And while no municipality faces a Detroit level meltdown yet, DiNapoli and other fiscal experts say they'll keep an eye on the next round of local budget proposals due to be released this year.