State Comptroller Puts Westchester County on Fiscal ‘Significant Stress’ List

Real Estate In-Depth | September 2020

New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli

ALBANY—New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli released his fiscal stress list for 2019 and unfortunately, the Hudson Valley was well represented.

On the State Comptroller’s “Significant (Fiscal) Stress” list in the New York metro area were Westchester County, Poughkeepsie in Dutchess County, Suffolk County and Long Beach in Nassau County. Other locations on the stress list were: Amsterdam in Montgomery County and Niagara Falls in Niagara County. Westchester and Suffolk counties have now been on the significant stress list for three years in a row.

The New York metro region had five of the 11 municipalities on the State Comptroller’s “Moderate Stress” list, including Maybrook in Orange County, Town of Clarkstown in Rockland County, Ramapo in Rockland County, and Glen Cove and Valley Stream both in Nassau County. Clarkstown also was designated under moderate stress last year for 2018.

A total of 22 local governments were designated in fiscal stress for 2019, according to State Comptroller DiNapoli’s Fiscal Stress Monitoring System. The scores were based on financial information reported by local governments operating on a calendar year basis (Jan. 1 – Dec. 31) for 2019 (pre-pandemic). In New York, that includes all counties and towns, 44 cities and 10 villages.

“We’ve been closely tracking the trends and common problems that communities in fiscal stress are facing. Now the economic damage caused by the pandemic has dramatically altered the fiscal landscape, and many communities are struggling to provide critical services and pay their bills,” DiNapoli said. “Without aid from Washington, the options are bleak for local governments trying to stay in the black, and many more local governments may be pushed into serious fiscal stress.”

DiNapoli’s Monitoring System informs the public about local governments’ financial health by evaluating and scoring municipalities on financial indicators such as year-end fund balance, cash-on-hand, short-term borrowing, fixed costs and patterns of operating deficits. The system also evaluates population trends, poverty and unemployment to establish separate “environmental” scores for each municipality.

In total, DiNapoli has designated 31 local governments in fiscal stress for 2019. This includes nine local governments with non-calendar fiscal years announced in March, including the cities of Long Beach (Nassau) and Amsterdam (Montgomery), which had the highest fiscal stress scores in the state.

The Comptroller also released a report on common elements shared by the 31 local governments in fiscal stress. It also noted the fiscal stress risks associated with COVID-19 on local finances, including sharp declines in sales tax revenue, significant withholding of state aid payments to local governments, and existing stress factors such as low fund balance. The report highlighted the targeted training and guidance offered by the Comptroller’s Office to help local officials dealing with financial challenges.

In January, DiNapoli issued fiscal stress scores for school districts and found 33 school districts designated in some level of fiscal stress for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2019.

A year ago, the State Comptroller released his department’s Fiscal Stress List, which included eight municipalities designated to be in “significant fiscal stress” in this scoring round are in the same category for the second year in a row. They are: the large downstate counties of Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester, the cities of Niagara Falls and Poughkeepsie and the towns of German Flatts, Parish and Oyster Bay. The City of Elmira and the Village of Islandia were designated as being in “significant fiscal stress” for the first time.

Monroe County and the Town of Clarkstown were designated as being under “moderate stress” in 2018. The counties of Broome, Franklin, Montgomery and Onondaga, the cities of Plattsburgh, Albany, Glen Cove, Little Falls, Watervliet, Tonawanda and the towns of Dayton, Colonie and Little Valley were designated as being “susceptible to fiscal stress.”