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Long Island

Comptroller: 5 LI municipalities under ‘fiscal stress’

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Both Nassau and Suffolk counties, as well as Valley Stream and the cities of Glen Cove and Long Beach, have been designated as under some level of “fiscal stress” by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

DiNapoli’s Fiscal Stress Monitoring System relies on 2016 financial information provided by 1,043 local governments in the state. The scores are created based on nine financial metrics including fund balance, cash on hand and patterns of operating deficits. The monitoring system also looks at population trends, poverty and unemployment for the context in which local governments function.

“Although the number of local governments designated as fiscally stressed has declined noticeably, there are still too many communities struggling with chronic budget strain,” DiNapoli said in a news release Wednesday. “Looking to the future, local officials should exercise fiscal caution through sensible spending decisions, realistic revenue projections and proper long-term planning.”

Nassau, Suffolk, Long Beach and Glen Cove are in the second-highest category of “moderate fiscal stress,” along with 10 other communities.

Valley Stream and nine other municipalities in the state have been listed as “susceptible to fiscal stress.”

“Suffolk County continues to make progress by closing its structural deficit with the lowest amount of one-shot revenues in recent history and working to achieve millions in health care cost containment measures in 2018,” Jason Elan, spokesman for Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, said in an email.

Some municipalities said the report did not provide an up-to-date financial picture and lacked the proper context.

“When this stress testing was introduced, I took issue with it,” Nassau County comptroller George Maragos said, calling the system “unprofessional and kind of arbitrary.”

He said Nassau County’s bond rating has been upgraded by S & P to AA+ and that the county’s most recent audited financial results, released a month ago, showed that “our year-end 2016 numbers are anything but stressed.”

“We have challenges going forward but I think those challenges are being met and with an adequate fund balance,” he added.

Glen Cove Mayor Reginald Spinello said in a statement that the report was “based on a three-year look back,” adding: “The city’s financial picture has improved dramatically over the past two years with two upgrades from Moody’s Investors Service and surpluses on the last two budgets. Glen Cove is now in its strongest financial position in the past 12 years.”

Valley Stream village treasurer Michael Fox also said the report was based on outdated information from last year. “We’re in the process of finalizing our financials this year. We had a very good year and we look forward to receiving a good score in the future,” Fox said.

“Six years ago we took office and the City of Long Beach was on the verge of bankruptcy with perhaps the worst fiscal stress numbers in New York State,” Long Beach Manager Jack Schnirman said. “We have made tremendous progress since then, with nine consecutive credit-positive actions from Moody’s, including multiple bond upgrades and significantly improving our fiscal stress score by merging our fiscal and physical recovery from Superstorm Sandy and replenishing our rainy day fund.”

With Michael Gormley

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