DiNapoli: Tax Collections Down 1 Percent

Tax collections in January fell by $658.3 million over the same period last year, a 1 percent decline, according to Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office.

Still, year-to-date tax revenue overall is slightly higher — some $167.9 million — than the most recent projections for the third quarter, the cash report released on Thursday found.

“State tax collections are slightly above Executive Budget projections,” DiNapoli said. “With the budget process well underway, and less than two months left in the fiscal year, we’re watching closely to see if revenues meet the Division of the Budget’s projected growth.”

There has been an increase in spending than initially projected, due in large part to the $2.1 billion of federal payments to the Essential Plan Program, as well as federal spending for Medicaid, also up by $2 billion.

DiNapoli Adds To Government Affairs Team

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli on Friday announced his office had hired former Hillary Clinton campaign aides Erin Stevens to become deputy comptroller for intergovernmental and community affairs and Christine Baal-Owens to lead community affairs as director.

Meanwhile, the comptroller’s office also added Tad Mack to become the regional director for the Finger Lakes area.

“Erin, Christina and Tad bring an impressive range of experience to our government relations staff,” DiNapoli said. “The Office of the State Comptroller deals with New Yorkers and community and elected officials from across the state on fiscal, policy and other issues. We need staff that can quickly and effectively help people and organizations navigate government and get them the assistance they need to address the challenges facing their communities and organizations.”

Stevens was most recently the political director for Clinton’s presidential campaign in New York. Previously, she served as DiNapoli’s director for executive operations.

A Brooklyn resident, she will be paid $150,000.

Baal-Owens was the state organizing director for Clinton’s campaign and has worked as the deputy political director for RWDSU and the legislative coordinator for 32BJ SEIU.

DiNapoli Budget Report Raises Oversight Concerns

An analysis of the 2017-18 state budget proposal from Gov. Andrew Cuomo raises concerns over apparent efforts to reduce independent oversight of the state’s finances, a report from Comptroller Tom DiNapoli released on Friday found.

The annual budget report released by the comptroller’s office also points to broader issues surrounding “significant risk” related to New York’s reliance on federal dollars, as the budget includes $54.3 billion in federal assistance.

“The 2017-18 Executive Budget seeks to balance spending and revenue and proposes much needed capital investments in clean water projects while increasing funding for education, health care and other programs,” DiNapoli said.

“Still, several proposals raise issues regarding checks and balances over use of the public’s dollars and would diminish independent oversight.”

All told, DiNapoli takes issue with the budget showing a “lack of clarity” when it comes to spending levels as well as issues related to the use of lump-sum appropriations. At the same time, DiNapoli’s report takes issue with the spending proposal including language that would allow the executive branch to have control over the budget post-legislative approval such as the ability to hike or lower planned expenditures and re-allocate previously approved spending.

And the budget proposes limits on the independent oversight of the comptroller’s office when it comes to the issues such as debt.

The budget division is expecting overall revenue in the current year to remain more or less flat, but is project revenue to increase by 5.6 percent in 2017-18.

“We are pleased that the Comptroller’s report recognizes the fiscal discipline and intelligent investments that characterize this budget,” said Division of Budget spokesman Morris Peters. “The report also rightly identifies the significant risk to federal revenues, which is why the budget includes prudent language – long supported by rating agencies and good governance groups – to help the State manage mid-year deficits.”

Review of Executive Budget 2017 by Nick Reisman on Scribd

DiNapoli: Cuomo So Far Has A ‘Solid Budget’

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli called the $152 billion spending proposal from Gov. Andrew Cuomo a “solid budget” but he has questions over some of the power transfers the plan seeks.

“In terms of a balance perspective, it looks like the governor has put together a solid budget,” DiNapoli said on Tuesday after speaking to the Public Employees Federation. “We’re looking at the fine print. Some of the initiatives in there that might raise concern are some of the powers that might be given to the budget director if changes are made in Washington.”

He pointed to the budget plan extending the millionaires tax surcharge due to expire at the end of the year, saying it’s an acknowledgment from Cuomo that there is “some softness in the revenue” for the state.

“He’s included some initiatives that I think have some popularity, such as clean water infrastructure,” DiNapoli said.

But at the same time, DiNapoli said he was worried about the impact of empowering the budget division to make changes without input from the Legislature.

“I think some of that power may go against what we need in terms of accountability and transparency,” he said.

The budget is expected to pass by March 31, the end of the state’s fiscal year.

DiNapoli said his office will release an analysis on the budget shortly.

DiNapoli: 1.1 Percent Rate Of Return In Q3

The state pension fund produced a relatively flat rate of return in the third quarter of 1.1 percent, with a value of $186 billion, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli said in a statement on Monday.

“The state pension fund enjoyed a solid third quarter and, barring a significant downturn, is headed for a successful year. We continue to focus on prudent, long-term management of investments to make sure our assets match our liabilities,” DiNapoli said. “Not long after I became Comptroller, the global financial crisis reduced our pension fund’s value to $108.9 billion. Despite volatility in the markets, my staff and I have rebuilt and strengthened the state pension fund to what it is today – a highly diversified fund with its highest ever estimated value.”

The third quarter cycle ending Dec. 31.

The fund at the beginning of the fiscal quarter stood at $184.5 billion and had a rate of return of 3.51 percent in the previous quarter.

At the start of the fiscal year, the fund had a value of $178.6 billion.

Number Of ‘Fiscally Stressed’ School Districts Decreases

The number of school districts deemed to be “fiscally stressed” has decreased in the last year from 82 to 59, according to a report released Wednesday by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.

All told, two school districts — Hempstead and Wyandanch on Long Island — were deemed to be under “significant” fiscal stress. Nine districts, meanwhile, were considered to be in “moderate” fiscal stress.

“Fiscal stress in many school districts has declined, especially for those in the most severe condition,” said DiNapoli. “School officials should be commended for working to keep their districts out of financial harm, but should be careful not to amass excessive levels of fund balance in order to do so.”

The report takes into account the finances of 671 school districts in the state for the fiscal year ending June 30.

The scores released on Wednesday does not include the “Big Four” city school districts — Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Yonkers.

State Tax Collections Drop $1.2B

New York’s tax collections dropped in the first three quarters of the fiscal year by $1.2 billion and $29.9 million lower than projects made in the middle part of the year, a report released on Friday by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.

“Overall tax collections in December were close to reduced estimates from the mid-year financial plan update, but the state is trailing collections from last year by more than $1 billion,” DiNapoli said. “The timing of payments and the level of financial sector bonuses will influence whether current estimates are met in the final quarter of the fiscal year.”

It was not all bad news: The state did receive an additional $253 million in new settlement funds during the final month of the calendar year.

Through last month, all funds receipts dropped $686.8 million, a decline of 0.6 percent from a year earlier.

Spending, meanwhile, was 4.8 percent higher than last year during the same period due to increases in Medicaid — some $2.7 billion from mostly federal sources — and additional public health programs.

The general fund itself has a balance of $9.1 billion, $98.3 million less than estimates from the mid-year budget update.

DiNapoli: School District Tax Growth Limited To 1.26 Percent

School districts once again will be setting their budget proposals that will limit the amount they can increase property taxes to under 2 percent.

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli this week calculated the allow levy growth for school district budgets will be limited to a 1.26 percent cap.

The calculation impacts levies for 677 school districts as well as 10 cities, including the “Big Four” districts of Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Yonkers.

In a statement, DiNapoli said school districts can fall back on reserve funds, but others may not be as lucky.

“For the fourth consecutive year, school and municipal officials will need to plan around a tax cap below two percent,” said DiNapoli. “My audits have shown some school districts will be able to rely on ample rainy day funds to offset the low growth in revenue, but others must examine their budgets to determine where they can limit spending or cut costs in order to stay under the cap.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $152.3 billion budget proposal increased education aid by about $961 million.

School districts over the years have sought unsuccessfully to make the tax cap, in effect since 2012, a “hard” 2 percent cap.

Report Finds Public Authorities Have $267B In Debt

The state’s web of public authorities have amassed $267 billion in debt, equating to $13,487 for each New Yorker, a report released on Thursday by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office.

Public authorities are semi-public entities that are created in order to borrow outside of normal bonding procedures, often deriding as “backdoor” borrowing.

As championed by controversial state builder Robert Moses, public authorities have come under criticism over the years for their opaque structure and financing.

“New York’s public authorities play an increasingly influential role in government yet they operate outside the traditional checks and balances that apply to state agencies,” DiNapoli said. “Some of these entities are repeatedly used in a way that circumvents borrowing limits and oversight. As a result, New York is shouldering a huge debt load issued by public entities operating in the shadows that voters never approved.”

The report counted 1,192 public authorities in the state, which includes 324 state-level authorities and entities. On the local level, there are 860.

The report also found 91 percent of the outstanding debt for state purposes has been amassed over the years by three major entities that have played key roles of late in economic and infrastructure development spending: the Empire State Development Corp., the Dormitory Authority and the Thruway Authority, the latter of which is overseeing the massive replacement project for the Tappan Zee Bridge.

Overall, state authorities employ 112,846 people, with local authorities employing 53,602, with nearly 18 percent being paid in excess of six figures.

In recent years, there have been efforts to identify public authority spending and debt, while also shuttering authorities and local development corporations that are defunct or no longer serve a purpose. The Authorities Budget Office annually releases reports on public authority financing and spending habits.

DiNapoli in a statement reiterated his call for legislation that would provide more sunlight for authorities, such as requiring an appropriation approved by the Legislature for their spending and would subject them to a pre-audit review.

At the same time, the bill would have public authorities fund projects with state appropriations that are based on measurable criteria.

Report Finds Tough Revenue Picture For Local Governments

A report released Friday by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli found local governments in New York continue to struggle with little to no revenue growth — straining their ability to pay for essential services and cover costs such as health care.

The lack of revenue increases is hardly a surprise: Local governments and school districts have budget within a cap on property tax levy increases, while state aid to municipalities has been flat over the years. The state’s tax cap has been below a 2 percent limit in recent years.

The mix has required local governments to increasingly rely on cash generated by the sales tax — which has steadily declined in the first nine months of 2016 from the same period a year earlier, falling from 3.6 percent to 1.8 percent.

“New York’s municipal governments are seeing sales tax revenue growth slow and state aid remain essentially flat while they and school districts are coping with tax cap and tax freeze initiatives that limit growth in property taxes,” DiNapoli said. “As local governments adapt to changing circumstances, my office will continue to support them with training, analysis and guidance.”

Spending, meanwhile, has grown between less than 1 percent and 2 percent a year since 2010. School district spending has been below 1 percent over the last three years starting in 2011. However, as state aid has increased, so has district over the last several years.

Aid to municipalities, meanwhile, has stayed at a flat $715 million rate for the last five years, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been hesitant to back an increase in aid.