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Comptroller finds no fiscal stress for local villages

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 12 February 2014 at 12:00 am

DiNapoli says all NY villages should be on alert

A new report by State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli doesn’t list any village from Orleans County or Western New York as in a level of fiscal stress.

However, DiNapoli said many upstate villages are suffering from shrinking tax bases, above average child poverty rates and shrinking employment bases.

He urged villages to use “sensible budgeting and careful long-term planning” to avoid fiscal stress.

His office issued a report of 535 villages and identified 15 with a level of fiscal stress. The report covered the fiscal year that ended May 31, 2013.  Albion, Holley and Lyndonville all were well below the fiscal stress threshold. (Medina was one of 48 villages that didn’t file the paperwork for the report.)

“Although the number of villages designated as fiscally stressed is small, village officials across the state must be on alert,” DiNapoli said. “Moving forward, the drivers of fiscal stress will continue to hamper villages in many of the same ways it does our larger municipalities.”

Using financial indicators that include year-end fund balance, cash position and patterns of operating deficits, the comptroller’s system creates an overall fiscal stress score which classifies whether a municipality is in significant fiscal stress, in moderate fiscal stress, susceptible to fiscal stress, or no designation.

The three villages from Orleans that were evaluated all received no designation.

The comptroller’s report establishes 29 overall points. If a village had at least 13 points, or 45 percent of the total, they were listed as susceptible to financial stress. Moderate fiscal stress started with 16 points and significant fiscal stress started at 19.

Holley had 7 points or 29.2 percent, while Lyndonville had 5 points or 20.8 percent. Albion had the best score: 4 points or 16.3 percent. All three were well under the comptroller’s threshold for fiscal stress.

“We are in very good shape,” said Jane Murray, Holley’s village clerk. “I’m very pleased.”

The average village score was 40 percent while Finger Lakes villages were about 42 percent, according to the comptroller’s report. (Click here to see the report.)

Other highlights of the report include:

Downstate villages overall are slightly gaining population, while upstate villages continue to experience declining population.

Median property values in downstate villages is nearly $170,000, while the median value in upstate villages barely tops $40,000.

Unemployment rates vary between upstate (8.6 percent) and downstate (7.1 percent) villages.