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 >

DiNapoli: 15 Local Governments Have ‘Significant’ Fiscal Stress

dinapoliMore than a dozen local governments — ranging from upstate and suburban counties to cities — have “significant” fiscal stress troubles, a report released on Wednesday by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli found.

“The financial trends in some local governments have not improved over the past three years, and it is looking tougher for New York’s cities,” said DiNapoli. “While it is clear that our municipalities continue to struggle with balancing revenues against increasing costs, we also know that sensible budgeting and developing comprehensive multiyear financial plans are crucial to overcoming both current and future fiscal challenges.”

The review of calendar-year 2014 financial data provided to the comptroller’s office found that overall 15 communities have significant stress factors weighing on their finances, including the counties of Monroe, Broome, Nassau, St. Lawrence, Franklin and Rockland; the cities of Glen Cove and Albany and towns East Fishkill, Jasper, Ramapo, Pierrepont, Coeymans, Cherry Valley and Parish.

An additional 11 communities are a second-tier category as having “moderate” stress on their finances, including Suffolk County, the cities of Poughkeepsie, Little Falls, Fulton and Glens Falls; and the towns of Hempstead, Colonie, Napoli, Saugerties, Rochester and German Flatts, the report found.

Overall, 44 local governments have some degree of financial trouble currently or potentially on the horizon. More >

Report Finds ‘Lax Policies’ In Student Grade Changes

dinapoliFive school districts were found to have little to no oversight of changes to student grades, while sixth doesn’t track the history of altered grades, a report from Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office released on Monday found.

A state audit of five districts — Arlington, Elmira, Fairport, Freeport and Saratoga Springs — found the changes in student grades were approved without proper or supporting documentation. A six school district, Williamsville, doesn’t detail grade change histories.

While the report doesn’t accuse the school districts of any wrongdoing, the lack of oversight can call into question how easily data like graduation rates and teacher performance can be altered.

“When proper controls are not in place, there is the possibility of student grades being inappropriately altered,” DiNapoli said. “When grades are changed, there needs to be a record justifying the changes. These lax policies could easily be manipulated and graduation rates, college placement and teacher performance could be compromised by these system weaknesses.”

The audit, which covered July 2013 through May 2015, included a review of 90 grade changes made by non-teachers, including guidance counsels and support staff, at each of the school districts. Of the 450 grade changes examined, auditors found 44 percent were not supported with written documentation that informed the student of teacher authorizing the change. More >

DiNapoli: Tax Receipts $609M Above Projections

The state’s tax receipts in August were $609 million above the state Division of Budget’s projections in August, according to a report issued by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office.

“The state’s cash position has improved further in recent months, largely because of higher than projected revenues and lower than projected spending,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “However, with the state’s strong reliance on Wall Street profitability and the recent volatility in financial markets, the revenue outlook for the remainder of the fiscal year is uncertain.”

Collections last month totaled $29.8 billion, 10.5 percent higher than the same period last year. Overall, tax collections were $355.6 million more than the latest projections and $1.3 billion more than the initial estimates in the state budget.

august2015.pdf by Nick Reisman

DiNapoli: OT Jumps $21M In First Six Months (Updated)

moneyWorkers at state agencies have racked up more than $337 million in overtime during for the first half of 2015 — a $21 million jump over that same period last year, a report from Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office released on Wednesday found.

State workers at those agencies examined accrued more than 8.2 million hours in overtime — a 5 percent increase over the first six months of 2014.

The state could be in line for a record amount of overtime should the pace continue, with DiNapoli projecting it could exceed $700 million in 2015.

“Even without counting the additional overtime caused by the prison-break in June, overtime has escalated at a record pace,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “State agencies should scrutinize their management practices and see what changes can be made to reduce their reliance on overtime.”

More >

DiNapoli: Tier Six Not A Driving Force In Contribute Rate Change

moneyThe cost-saving pension level Tier Six is not necessarily the main factor in driving down employer contribution rates, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli said in a radio interview.

DiNapoli announced on Friday contribution rates for the retirement fund — the average percentage of payroll paid by local governments and school districts — would decline by 15 percent. Police and fire contributions would fall by 2 percent.

The reduction is the third time the rate has fallen in the last three years.

But DiNapoli said the recent addition of Tier Six under Gov. Andrew Cuomo — which followed Tier 5 during David Paterson’s time in office — is just one of many factors. More >

Pension Contribution Rates And Rate Of Return To Decrease

dinapoliThe employer contribution rates for the state pension fund in the coming 2016-17 fiscal year will once again decrease, but so will the assumed rate of return for the fund overall, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli on Friday announced.

The reduced contribution rate — good news for local governments that pay into the state pension system for their public employees — was long anticipated from DiNapoli.

The assumed reduction in the overall rate of return for the fund, which was valued at the close of the 2014-15 fiscal year on March 31 at $184.5 billion, comes after weeks of volatility in both foreign and domestic markets.

The overall employee contribution rate for the common retirement system will decrease from 18.2 percent of payroll to 15.5 percent — a roughly 15 percent decrease. The average contribution rate for the police and fire retirement system will decline by 2 percent — from 24.7 percent of payroll costs to 24.3 percent. More >