DiNapoli: 82 School Districts In Fiscal Stress

There are 82 school districts in the state that have been deemed “fiscally stressed” by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office, according to a report released on Thursday.

The analysis released by DiNapoli’s office of 672 school districts could give more fodder to opponents and critics of the state’s cap on property tax increases, which is due to limit levy growth to under a 1 percent increase this year.

Still, the number of school districts that have fiscal troubles is largely flat from the previous year, DiNapoli found.

“The overall number of school districts in fiscal stress has essentially remained steady the past three years,” said DiNapoli. “A few have remained in stress for the entire period and we’re watching closely to see if the limited growth allowed by the tax cap this year pushes more school districts into fiscal stress. I recommend that local school officials use our system as a tool when crafting their budgets and developing long-term financial plans.”

The report shows eight school districts are under a significant level of financial strain, while 24 districts have “moderate” stress.

Last year, 90 school districts were listed as being under a form of budgetary strain, DiNapoli said.

School districts deemed to face significant fiscal challenges this year include the Hempstead Union Free School District; Sachem Central School District; Wyandanch Union Free School District; West Seneca Central School District; Corinth Central School District; East Ramapo Central School District; Herkimer Central School District; and Copiague Union Free School District.

DiNapoli’s office uses a variety of indicators to determine whether a school district faces financial challenges, including year-end fund balance, borrowing as well as operating deficits.

The proposed 2016-17 state budget includes a $963 million increase in state aid to education, though the Board of Regents has called for more than twice that amount.

School Summary List by Nick Reisman

TZB And Bills Stadium Spending Authorized

The state comptroller’s office has approved $96.7 million in spending toward the mutli-billion dollar Tappan Zee Bridge project, while spending nearly an additional $1 million for the Buffalo Bills to operate and maintain its Orchard Park stadium in western New York.

The items were among the contract and spending authorizations announced by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office on Monday.

The new bridge, which is due to replace the aging Tappan Zee Bridge at the Hudson River between Westchester and Rockland counties, is expected to cost more than $3 billion, though it remains unclear how much tolls over the new span will ultimately cost.

The spending was approved for the Thruway Authority, which is in charge of building the new bridge.

Meanwhile, the state Assembly was approved for spending $63,000 for legal services related to the reapportionment of state legislative and congressional districts — some $96,000.

The redistricting and reapportionment process in 2012 led to a court challenge and, ultimately, a federal judge drawing the Congressional district boundaries, with the majority party state lawmakers in the Assembly and Senate choosing their own constituents themselves.

DiNapoli’s office also signed off on a $44.9 million contract for Questar Assessments Inc. to write examinations for math and English language arts for grades three through eight. The contract was awarded to Questar earlier this year after the state Department of Education sought to distance itself from the much-maligned tests developed by Pearson.

As the state’s medical marijuana industry is due to come online next month, DiNapoli’s office gave approval to a $1.9 million contract for Bio-Tech Medical Software Inc. for a medical marijuana seed-to-sale tracking system.

The medical marijuana program is due to be operational by January, though Gov. Andrew Cuomo approved a bill that would create an expedited system for patients in need of relief.

DiNapoli: Retirement Fund Posts Negative Return In Q2

The state pension fund during the second quarter of the fiscal year posted a negative 4.13 percent rate of return, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli on Tuesday announced.

In a statement, DiNapoli pointed to ongoing volatility in the market during the summer. The fund is valued at an estimated at $173.5 billion, which is reflective of benefits that were paid out during the quarter.

The second quarter ended on Sept. 30.

“Volatility in the late summer continued to seriously challenge investors across multiple markets,” DiNapoli said. “Fortunately, New York’s pension fund is built on a conservative, long-term investment strategy to weather such ups and downs and provide retirement security for generations to come. While we’ve seen some recovery in the third quarter, there is no question that this is a tough year for investors.”

Comptroller Budget Report: NY’s Economy Slowing Down

New York’s gross domestic product grew by 2.5 percent in the 2014 calendar year, but that growth in 2015 is estimated to slow to 1.7 percent, according to Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s quick-start budget report released on Thursday.

The report, released in November as a precursor to the coming budget season, provides estimates on state revenue and disbursements for the coming fiscal year and the following one. New York’s budget calendar runs from April 1 through March 31.

The report found New York wages grew by 6.4 percent in 2014, which came as a result of a strong showing by the state’s financial sector and bonuses for work performed in 2013.

Wage growth, however, will slow to 2.9 percent this year, a reflection of smaller bonuses. Personal income growth will slow down as well, from 4 percent last year to a projected 3.5 percent this year.

While employment statewide increased by 1.4 percent in 2014, so far the growth has been smaller this year at 1.1 percent. The employment rate is expected to slow down yet again in 2016, when it will increase by 1 percent.

The report found state tax revenue will grow by 5.6 percent in the current 2015-16 fiscal year, while receipts will increase by 3.2 percent in 2016-17.

All funds receipts in the current fiscal year are due to be $471 million than initial estimates forecast by the state Division of Budget, but $222 million in the 2016-17 fiscal year.

Quick Start Report 110415 by Nick Reisman

Audit Finds Deceased People Enrolled In Health Exchange

Flaws in the design and process of the state’s health-care exchange enrollment has led to deceased people being enrolled for coverage in the Medicaid program, according to an audit from Comptroller Tom DiNapoli found.

The audit found the state’s exchange, set up to help New Yorkers shop and compare health insurance as part of the federal Affordable Care Act, found the process allowed for enrollments that totaled $3.4 million in over payments in the program since the exchange was put in place in Oct. 2013 by executive order.

The audit, which covered October 2013 through October 2014, found 354 deceased people were identified as active recipients in the Medicaid program.

Of those individuals, 21 were enrolled by the exchange, known as the New York State of Health System, after they had died. The rest had died after enrollment, but their status hadn’t been updated, the report found.

“Due to this limitation and other audit scope impairments, we were unable to fully assess the adequacy of NYSOH controls over Medicaid enrollments and fully determine the extent to which improper enrollments may have caused Medicaid overpayments,” the audit says. “Consequently, readers of our audit report should consider the effect of the scope limitation on the conclusions presented in our report.”

The Department of Health told auditors that haven’t been able to verify whether some participants were living or dead due to problems with a federal contract.

Since the audit was performed, the DOH has found 321 individuals who were deceased and ended their accounts.

14s4 by Nick Reisman

DiNapoli: NY Receives 91 Cents For Every Dollar Sent To DC

moneyNew York gives, but Washington doesn’t give as much back.

That’s according to a report released by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli on Tuesday found for every dollar New York sends to Washignton, D.C., it receives about 91 cents back in federal spending.

The national average for states is abou $1.22 in spending.

New York ranks abysmally when it comes to receiving federal money, 46th nationally in terms of balance of payments between the amount generated in federal taxes versus the spending sent back.

“The Empire State pays more to Washington than it gets back,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “A high-income state like New York generates more in federal taxes than other states, but we also have significant costs, and the continuing imbalance raises questions about equity for New Yorkers. Our Congressional delegation has pushed hard over the years to increase New York’s slice of the pie and these continued efforts should be encouraged.”

In 2013, for instance, the federal government spent about $3.5 billion, bringing in $2.8 trillion in revenue. New York generated about $214 billion all-tax revenue for the federal government, ranking third behind California and Texas. At the same time, New York provided $19.9 billion more in tax revenue than it received from D.C. More >

DiNapoli: ‘Positive Relationship’ With Bharara

bhararaComptroller Tom DiNapoli in a radio interview on Thursday described his relationship with the office of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office as “ongoing and positive” as the federal government investigates the contracting process for the “Buffalo Billion” economic development program.

DiNapoli wouldn’t say, however, whether he or his office has been issued a subpoena or turned over documents relating to Bharara’s investigation.

“I can’t comment directly on that question other than to say we have a very on going and positive relationship with Mr. Bharara’s office,” he said on Fred Dicker’s Talk-1300 radio show. “Certainly it’s a cooperative one. But I can’t comment without any specificity about those interactions.”

Bharara and DiNapoli were spotted last year breaking bread in lower Manhattan, a lunch that came after the federal prosecutor took possession of records generated by the Moreland Commission, an anti-corruption panel that folded earlier in 2014 following an agreement on ethics law changes in the state budget.

Attorney General Eric Schneideramn, along with DiNapoli, have also teamed up on various public integrity probes in recent years. More >

Report: Vast Majority Failing To Install Ignition Interlock Devices

A report released Thursday by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli found the majority of those convicted of driving while intoxicated charges and required to install an ignition interlock device in their vehicles have failed to do so.

The report found the installation rate in New York City was 5 percent, while the statewide rate is about 26 percent.

A person convicted of a DWI in New York City are either monitored by the Queens DA’s office or New York City Probation. The audit examined those who are under the supervision of NYC Probation.

“Ignition interlocks won’t protect New Yorkers if DWI offenders can drive without installing the devices,” DiNapoli said. “My auditors found convicted drunk drivers routinely violated the terms of their sentences and did not install ignition interlocks without penalties or punishment. While efforts were made to strengthen Leandra’s Law, it is still too easy to circumvent the law. City officials must work harder to keep DWI offenders from harming others and prevent more senseless accidents and tragedies, but clearly there is work to be done statewide.”

Between Aug. 15, 2010 and Dec. 31, 2014, courts in New York ordered the installation of 2,166 ignition interlock devices under NYC Probations’ supervision. Of those, only 111 were actually installed. The report found little evidence that NYC Probation has followed up routinely with DWI offenders to ensure the devices have been properly installed.

The report recommended NYC Probation develop a process that ensures DWI offenders are installing the devices in required vehicles and require probation officers to document all DMV checks as well as home visits. At the same time, probation officers should follow up with the courts and prosecutors when those convicted of DWIs have not installed the devices.

DiNapoli: Diabetes Medicaid Costs Hit $1.2B

dinapoliDiabetes-related services for Medicaid recipients costs New York $1.2 billion in, according to a report released on Friday by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.

The costs for diabetes care is growing: Over a five-year period ending in March 2014, expenses related to diabetes increased by $293.7 million — a 31 percent jump. During the same time period, Medicaid costs grew by $9.4 billion, or 21 percent, to $54.9 billion in the 2013-14 fiscal year.

About 460,000 Medicaid recipients are diagnosed with diabetes and receiving services under the program related to the disease. Overall, 1 in 10 adult New Yorkers have been diagnosed with either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes.

“Millions of New Yorkers suffer from diabetes and the numbers are growing. It is a costly disease to fight given its chronic nature and the severity of its complications,” DiNapoli said. “Preventing diabetes is difficult not only in New York but across the country. The state Department of Health (DOH) deserves credit for openly acknowledging the ongoing challenge of diabetes prevention and the need for more progress in meeting this major health issue. Clearly, the battle against diabetes must continue to be a priority.”

Compounding the problem, the poorest New Yorkers have the highest prevalence of diabetes, with those who earn less than $15,000 a year comprising 15.9 percent of diabetes patients.

Racial and ethnic minorities, along with the elderly, are also highly impacted by diabetes, with the prevalence of the disease among African-American adults at 14.2 percent and 11.4 percent among Latinos. More >

DiNapoli Report Assesses MTA’s $9.8B Capital Shortfall

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority faces a $9.8 billion shortfall in its capital program that could lead to future fare and toll increases unless the state and city increase their contributions to pay for needed upgrades.

The report calls into question whether the MTA — which provides bus, rail and train service in the metropolitan area — will be able to cap future fare and toll hikes to 4 percent as planned. Limiting those increases will depend in large part on whether the city and state will make funding available and whether the economy continues to grow as it has been, the report found.

“The MTA is looking to the state and the city to close the remaining $9.8 billion funding gap in its five-year capital program. While we don’t yet know how the gap will be closed, we do know that the public mass transportation system is critical to the state and city economies” DiNapoli said. “If the MTA doesn’t get the funding it needs, the MTA will have to choose between cutting the size of the capital program or borrowing more, which could lead to less reliable service or higher fares and tolls.”

The MTA’s current capital program for 2015-2019 includes the suggested state increase of $7.3 billion to a total of $8.3 billion and that the city hike its own contribution $3.2 billion — a $2.5 billion increase. More >