Feb 27th - 12:31 pm
Sales tax revenue on the local revenue grew by $739 million in 2013, a 5.2 percent increase over the last year, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office found.
Overall, $14.9 billion in local sales tax revenue was collected last year, the report found.
It’s a positive development for local governments following the relative lack of revenue growth in the years since the financial crisis of 2008.
“This is welcome news for our municipalities and comes at a time when local revenues have been experiencing little to no growth,” said DiNapoli. “The majority of the increase appears to stem from storm clean up, which gives these communities a short-term boost. As the economy continues its tenuous recovery, sales tax collections could vary either way for local governments and is generally a more volatile source of revenue.”
Interestingly enough, largely rural counties had the largest increases in sales tax.
Essex County overall had the highest growth rate, with an 8.8 percent increase, followed by Hamilton County at 8.2 percent.
Washington County, meanwhile, grew 6.9 percent.
Downstate communities also saw a sharp increase, which is largely due to the rebuilding efforts following Superstorm Sandy.
Feb 21st - 4:18 pm
As Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget office expects a surplus by the end of this fiscal year, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office on Friday found the state’s revenue collection has not met its projections, according to a cash-flow report.
Revenue through the end of January increased by more than 4 percent over the last fiscal year, but remain below estimates thanks to the timing of personal income tax payments.
“So far tax collections have grown 4.2 percent from a year ago but we still have to meet year-end estimates,” DiNapoli said. “The 2014-15 budget proposal assumes a surplus in the current year, and the strength of receipts in February and March will determine whether a surplus materializes and what the number will be.”
The state’s fiscal year ends March 31.
Cuomo’s $142 billion budget proposal includes an estimated $350 million surplus for this coming fiscal year.
Feb 18th - 3:40 pm
An audit from Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office released Tuesday found the Department of Transportation wrongly paid nearly $321,000 for travel expenses to eight workers at the Tappan Zee Bridge.
The money was spent despite an internal DOT audit that identified the money as inappropriate, the DiNapoli report found.
“DOT needs to make sure its managers are aware of state travel rules and enforce them,” DiNapoli said. “After an internal audit identified the improper payments, DOT continued to make them, even with multiple opportunities to remedy the situation. DOT needs to do a better job protecting taxpayer dollars and ensuring its employees are not paid for routine commuting costs.”
The improper travel reimbursement may have led to the DOT failing to report about $227,000 in travel expenses to the correct taxing authorities between 2009 and 2011, DiNapoli found.
Guidance from the IRS says employee travel expenses are taxable.
The comptroller’s office found $101,706 was spent on personal car mileage, tolls and other expenses from June 2010 through September 2011. Overall, the DOT reimbursed Tappan Zee Bridge workers $320,756 for commuting expenses over a four-year period.
Feb 10th - 2:05 pm
The aspiration to keep spending at a 2 percent spending limit in order to stem out-year gaps and create surpluses is “a little bit different,” Comptroller Tom DiNapoli told reporters on Monday in Albany.
In particular, DiNapoli said not specifying how spending would be kept under control
“What is different about the strategy is there are gaps identified and there’s a line that talks about controlling spending at 2 percent as a way to deal with those gaps,” DiNapoli said. “That’s a little bit of a different budget strategy or financial plan strategy than we’ve seen in the past.”
Cuomo’s budget plan for the coming fiscal years would hold spending at 2 percent increases, which he says will produce a $2 billion surplus.
The previous budgets have all held state spending at 2 percent increases.
“Certainly the governor has demonstrated an ability to control spending,” DiNapoli said. “I think that is an important underpinning to his expectation that the numbers will be there.”
More analysis from DiNapoli’s office is expected when he releases a report on Cuomo’s $142 billion spending plan in the coming days.
Feb 7th - 12:51 pm
Fifteen villages in New York are facing some degree of “fiscal stress” according to an analysis released by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office.
Four villages — Suffern in Rockland County and Amitville in Suffolk County and Nassau County’s Bayville and Manorhaven — were all found to have significant levels of fiscal stresses.
The criteria for designating a local government under fiscal stress includes indicators such as cash-on-hand, patterns of operating deficits and fund balance totals.
The designation is meant to provide ailing local governments with an “early warning” of sorts as a first step to ironing out their budget wrinkles.
“Although the number of villages designated as fiscally stressed is small, village officials across the state must be on alert,” said DiNapoli. “Moving forward, the drivers of fiscal stress will continue to hamper villages in many of the same ways it does our larger municipalities. I continue to emphasize to local officials that the best way their community can avoid falling into fiscal stress is through sensible budgeting and careful long-term planning.”
DiNapoli’s report found villages in the downstate region were gaining population slightly overall, while their upstate counterparts were declining in the number of people living there.
Property values in downstate villages are also far greater: $170,000 in the New York City region compared to barely $40,000 upstate.
Often villages struggling financially have problems with declining property values, child poverty and a shrinking jobs base.
Feb 5th - 1:23 pm
Only 22 percent of the $3.8 billion in money spent by the Dedicated Highway and Bridge Trust went to capital construction in the 2012-13 fiscal year, a report from Comptroller Tom DiNapoli found.
The fund, which was first created in 1991, was originally meant to spend money reconstructing and preserving highways and bridges in the state.
Money sent to the fund comes from dedicated taxes and fees, including the gas tax, petroleum business tax and vehicle licensing and rental car fees.
“Taxpayers have paid billions in taxes and fees into a fund that was created to keep our roads and bridges in good repair. Now, more than three-quarters of this money is siphoned off to pay for borrowing and operating costs of state agencies, leaving fewer dollars for improving our infrastructure,” DiNapoli said. “While the state is making progress with its capital planning, New York needs a reliable source for investment in its transportation infrastructure and should restore the use of this fund for capital purposes.”
DiNapoli found that debt payments in 2002 surpassed capital projects.
Meanwhile, costs from state operations continue to take up most of the fund’s spending. Almost $1.6 billion in the previous budget year, including snow and ice management by the Department of Transportation and the day-to-day expenses of the Department of Motor Vehicles.
The budget proposal for the coming 2014-15 fiscal year estimates capital spending will account for 23.5 percent of all disbursements, a slight growth from the current year.
Jan 28th - 10:47 am
Overtime at state agencies hit a record $611 million in 2013, a 16 percent increase compared to prior year, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli found in a report released on Monday.
“State employees logged 14.8 million overtime hours last year, costing taxpayers a record $611 million. New York’s overtime bill is increasing and needs to be reined in,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “State agencies should take a hard look at how they are using overtime and for what. To hold the line on state spending, state agencies should double their efforts to reduce this expensive habit.”
Not surprisingly, the agencies that accounted for the largest share of overtime operate 24-hour institutional facilities: the Office of Mental Health, the Deparment of Corrections and Community Supervision and the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities.
Employees at those agencies accounted for more than 63 percent of the overtime hours in 2013.
Overall, overtime spending amount to 3.9 percent of the total state payroll, which is the highest share since the comptroller’s office began analyzed that spending.
Update: Division of Budget spokesman Morris Peters sent over a statement noting overall payroll has gone down.
“Last year’s 2.4 percent increase in overtime hours is dwarfed by the fact that overall payroll has decreased by nearly $750 million during this administration,” Peters said.
Here is the full report:
Jan 17th - 1:22 pm
Tax revenue to the state’s coffers is slowing down, according to a report Friday from Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.
The quarterly update from DiNapoli’s office found receipts are $534 million below what was initially projected.
Taxes from businesses and the personal income tax are both lagging.
“The state started the fiscal year strong but it is not clear if we will end the year that way, given that some state revenue streams are slowing down,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “Business taxes are lagging behind projections and growth in personal income tax withholding is slowing down. Still, sales tax collections continue to be strong and other tax receipts may exceed projections. It is critical that we closely monitor revenue trends in the last quarter of the fiscal year. While the last three budgets have narrowed the state’s structural imbalance, there is still much to do to ensure the state’s fiscal health.”
The report found all-funds tax collections totaled $49 billion in Dec. 31, which was $2.6 billion more than that point last year. Still, it’s a half-billion below what was initially estimated in mid-year projections. The state’s largest revenue source, the personal income tax or PIT, totaled $29.8 billion or 7.4 percent higher than this point last year.
Here is the report:
Jan 16th - 1:47 pm
There are 87 school districts that qualify for being “fiscally stressed” according to a monitoring system developed by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office.
The figure accounts for about 13 percent of school districts statewide and the survey itself included an evaluation o 674 schools.
“School districts are a critical barometer to the fiscal health of our local communities,” said DiNapoli. “Unfortunately, reductions in state aid, a cap on local revenue and decreased rainy day funds are creating financial challenges that more and more school districts are having trouble overcoming. My office’s fiscal stress scores highlight the need for school district officials to manage their finances carefully with an eye towards long-range planning and how they can operate more efficiently.”
Factors for qualifying under fiscal stress include depleted fund balance, cash on hand and patterns of operating deficits.
Of those school districts designated in fiscal stress, 12 school districts have been classified as in “significant fiscal stress,” 23 in “moderate fiscal stress,” and 52 as “susceptible to fiscal stress.”
The findings do not include four of the largest school districts in the state: Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Yonkers.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his budget address is expected to propose another boost in education aid, which in prior years has been a 4 percent increase.
Cuomo in his State of the State address called for a $2 billion education bond act that would help fund infrastructure and equipment upgrades at schools.
Jan 15th - 1:25 pm
After applying pressure through his role as the trustee of the state’s pension fund, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli on Wednesday announced he reached an agreement with FirstEnergy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The Ohio-based company had been challenged in a shareholder resolution that was co-filed by New York’s pension fund and Connecticut Treasurer Denise Nappier.
“FirstEnergy is taking important steps today for shareholder value and the environment by looking holistically at how climate change is affecting the company over the long term,” DiNapoli said. “We look forward to working with FirstEnergy as it implements its plan and will continue to engage with our portfolio companies to reach similar agreements. Companies are enhancing long-term shareholder value when they prepare for future regulations that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
Under the agreement, FirstEnergy reduce CO2 emissions comparable to the goals laid out by the Obama administration.
The company agreed to review the age and life expectancy of its existing fossil-fuel fleet and also research how standards of performance for greenhouse emissions from different sources impact the company.
DiNapoli has used the leverage power of the state’s pension fund to seek changes within companies. Last year, Qualcomm agreed to change its way of reporting political giving, while DiNapoli and AT&T are tussling over the telecommunication giant’s participation in sharing customer data with the federal government.