Comptroller Gives Plattsburgh Good Financial Report

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli  says A steady population, an expanding tax base and a diverse economy have helped establish a stable financial foundation for the city of Plattsburgh…   The Comptroller made a special visit to Plattsburgh on Wednesday to speak with local business leaders, the media, and local legislators including Town of Plattsburgh Supervisor Bernie Bassett and Plattsburgh Mayor Jim Calnon… Plattsburgh’s Fiscal Stress Level according to DiNapoli comes in at 9.6% with 100% denoting the most Fiscal Stress..  This is well below the 45% number where municipalities are typically labelled as at risk for fiscal stress.

AUDIO – 050814 – DiNapoli Report – A Fiscal Profile of Plattsburgh

“So far Plattsburgh has effectively navigated many of the fiscal stress issues plaguing other upstate communities,” said DiNapoli. “A number of factors have played to the city’s advantage – proximity to the Canadian border, home to a state university and government offices, and an expanding manufacturing industry. But in order for Plattsburgh to maintain a positive financial standing, city officials need to continue to mind the store. Continued development of careful budgets that reflect realistic long-term financial plans is vital.”

“While it is gratifying to have our labor over the last seven years demonstrated in Comptroller DiNapoli’s report, the internal and external pressures that we have successfully managed have not gone away,” said Plattsburgh Mayor James Calnon. “With signs of our economy improving, we agree with the Comptroller that we must be very careful as we budget over the next two years.”

Unlike many upstate New York communities, Plattsburgh’s population has remained relatively unchanged since the 1960s. The city had 19,989 residents in 2010 compared to 20,172 in 1960. This stability has helped bolster the city’s property values. From 2002 through 2008, the city’s taxable full value increased slower than other cities in New York – 49 percent compared to 79 percent. However, when cities around the state began to suffer declines in property value in 2009, Plattsburgh’s value continued to increase. The city’s median home value is now $139,000 while the median city’s is $102,000.

Over this same time period, Plattsburgh’s revenues have grown 29 percent to $47.4 million in 2012. This includes $25.7 million from charges for services, $9.8 million from property taxes and $4.4 million from sales taxes. The city’s revenue from charges for services largely stem from the city-owned and operated Plattsburgh Municipal Lighting Department, an electric transmission and distribution system. The department offers residents and industries lower utility rates than the regional power company.

City officials have also held down spending. For example, from 2002-2012 revenues grew at annual rate of 2.6 percent, while expenditure growth averaged just 2.1 percent.

The steady revenue growth allowed the city to build up its rainy day reserves. The city’s available fund balance peaked at $5.2 million in 2010, but has been tapped in recent years and stood at $1.9 million in 2012.

DiNapoli’s report also highlighted a number of negative trends facing the city, most notably socioeconomic issues.

For example, the median household income ($36,021) is similar to the median city’s ($38,913) but noticeably less the state median ($57,683). And the child poverty rate of 28 percent mirrors the rate for the median city but is higher than the statewide rate of 21 percent.
The Comptroller’s fiscal profile of the city also highlighted:
· The city received only 9.3 percent of its revenue from sales taxes, significantly lower than the 21.7 percent for all cities;
· State aid accounted for 7.5 percent of the city’s revenues, much less than the 18 percent for all cities in the state; and
· Plattsburgh has debt service costs of 6.5 percent of total revenue, compared to 8.7 percent for the median city in New York.

Previous fiscal profiles issued by DiNapoli’s office include: Binghamton, Buffalo, Colonie, Elmira, Gloversville, Niagara Falls, Poughkeepsie, Rochester, Rye, Salamanca, Syracuse, Utica, Watertown, White Plains and Yonkers.

The Comptroller’s fiscal stress initiative has included the creation of an ‘early warning’ fiscal stress monitoring system for municipalities and school districts.

Based on financial information provided to DiNapoli’s office by local communities, the Comptroller’s system evaluates local governments on nine financial indicators and creates an overall fiscal stress score. Indicators include fund balance, cash-on-hand and patterns of operating deficits. The scores are used to classify a local community as being in “significant fiscal stress,” “moderate fiscal stress,” “susceptible to fiscal stress” or “no designation.” The system also evaluates communities relative to environmental stress factors such as population trends, poverty rates and property values.

To date, DiNapoli’s monitoring system has identified a total of 142 municipalities in some level of fiscal stress. This includes 16 counties, 18 towns, five cities, 16 villages and 87 school districts. The city of Plattsburgh is listed in the no designation category.

For a copy of the Plattsburgh fiscal profile visit:
http://www.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/pubs/fiscalprofiles/plattsburgh.pdf

For more detailed information about Comptroller DiNapoli’s fiscal stress monitoring system and to view reports related to local government fiscal stress visit: http://www.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/fiscalmonitoring/index.htm

For access to state and local government spending and more than 50,000 state contracts, visit http://www.openbooknewyork.com/. The easy-to-use website was created by Comptroller DiNapoli to promote openness in government and provide taxpayers with better access to the financial workings of government.

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