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Report: Suffolk, LI towns continue to show 'fiscal stress'

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli at the

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli at the New York State Financial Control Board Meeting in Manhattan on Tuesday, July 29, 2014. Photo Credit: Bryan Smith

Suffolk County has slightly improved its finances but is still under "moderate fiscal stress," according to a report released Thursday by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

The report, which comes after DiNapoli's office reviewed financial records for the state's more than 1,000 local governments, also lists Glen Cove, the Village of Islandia, and the towns of Hempstead and Oyster Bay among the 35 municipalities throughout the state facing some level of fiscal stress.

"Long Island's got some significant municipalities having some of these issues," DiNapoli said about the local governments grappling with issues such as high fixed costs and relying on short-term debt to fund operating expenses.

DiNapoli said the report points out that "local governments are still going through a very difficult time."

Municipalities were evaluated based on their 2013 financial figures, and those with a rating higher than 45 percent were deemed to be under fiscal stress.

Suffolk, which received a 60.8 percent rating, was listed as being under "moderate fiscal stress" -- an upgrade from last year's rating of 73.8 percent and "significant fiscal stress" rating,

DiNapoli attributes Suffolk's improvement to the county reducing its operating deficit and improving its cash flow. The county is facing a $170.3 million deficit through 2015, but that figure loomed at more than $500 million in 2012.

"The change in designation . . . reflects the hard choices we have made," Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said in a statement.

Bellone recently proposed a $2.88 billion budget for 2015 that increases spending by $89.9 million.

Suffolk Comptroller Joseph Sawicki said DiNapoli's revised assessment is "an indication that the county is making good progress in restoring fiscal balance. We will be issuing $54 million general obligation bonds Oct. 7 and this will be welcome news to investors."

Nassau, which last year was listed as being under "moderate fiscal stress," did not submit its financial records in time to be assessed for this report, DiNapoli said.

Jostyn Hernandez, spokesman for Nassau Comptroller George Maragos, said the records were delayed because the county's auditing firm had to reaudit county finances last month after Maragos' office uncovered $322,000 in fraudulent billing from a Bay Shore contractor hired to repair and maintain county vehicles.

The Town of Hempstead, which was not on the list last year, was listed as being under "moderate fiscal stress" this year with a 55.8 percent rating.DiNapoli said the two main factors leading to Hempstead's designation included issues with its "cash flow" and "liquidity."

Hempstead spokesman Mike Deery said the town was in a "solid financial state," adding it recently received bond ratings that were one grade below the top rating from Moody's Investor Services and Standard & Poor's.

The Town of Oyster Bay improved its score from 62.5 percent last year to 54.2 percent and is now described as being "susceptible to fiscal stress" -- an upgrade from last year's "moderate fiscal stress" rating. "I believe the report is indicating we're heading in the right direction, but we're not out of the woods yet," said Oyster Bay Town Comptroller Robert McEvoy.

Glen Cove was listed as being under "moderate fiscal stress" for the second consecutive year, receiving a rating of 61.7 percent.

Glen Cove Mayor Reginald Spinello, who took office this year, said the results reflected past short-term borrowing under the previous administration.

Islandia, with a 65.8 percent rating, was listed as being under "significant fiscal stress." Village attorney Joseph Prokop rebuffed the rating, saying, "We don't necessarily think it's appropriate."


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