389 Local Governments Eligble For Restructuring
Nearly 400 local governments are eligible to have their finances reviewed by the newly empaneled Fiscal Restructuring Board, but how many municipalities will actually take advantage of the commission remains to be seen.
Nevertheless, officials on the panel are hopeful local governments will come to them to solve their financial woes. They have a fairly large carrot to dangle in front of them: up to $5 million in grants and incentives that could help pave the way for shared services and consolidation.
“I don’t know that it’s the board’s role to convince any locality that they should participate in this program,” said Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, who sits on the restructuring board. “But I think it is another option that’s available.”
The catch, of course, for local governments have to follow through on the recommendations if they accept any money.
“I think each localitiy has to make their own determination,” DiNapoli said. “Do they feel they need this kind of assistance or not? Is binding arbitration another option where they want this board as an alternative? I think each community is going to make their decision on a case by case basis.”
The restructuring board was first proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his State of the State address in January.
Though vague at the time, the board was formed as a way to entice local governments with structural budget problems to fix their finances, which included a binding arbitration option for officials and local unions.
But the shared services and consolidation issue has been a tough nut for state officials to crack. Local efforts to consolidated governments have largely failed when put before voters.
“I think it’s been difficult in the past because it’s been so locally oriented,” said Division of Budget Director Bob Megna, the chairman of the restructuring board. “The board will have some ability to push maybe both localities to consolidate that will make some sense.”
He added the back-office function and locally shared sevices could be a more modest recommendation that could stick.
The budget crunch across the state has impacted nearly every region, including governments on Long Island, the Hudson Valley and across upstate.
Though officials on the board today stressed no local government is on the verge of a Detroit-like meltdown, the hope this is the first stop before the bankruptcy road.
The plight of local governments was highlighted this year when Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner publicly opposed Cuomo’s proposal to smooth out pension costs.
At the time, Miner pointed to ongoing financial troubles in the city stemming from increasing budget costs local officials there can’t control.
Now the Environmental Facilities Corp. CEO, former Syracuse Mayor Matt Driscoll said his hometown may be interested in using the board’s services.
“Syracuse is one, they would have to make an application and I suspect that they would do that,” he said.
|Print article||This entry was posted by Nick Reisman on September 23, 2013 at 3:49 pm, and is filed under Albany. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.|