Suffolk County is no longer the most fiscally "stressed" county in the state, largely because of an influx of federal pandemic aid and an increase in sales tax revenue, according to a new report by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.
Both Nassau and Suffolk counties had no designation for fiscal stress in 2021, the best category in the comptroller office’s annual fiscal stress monitoring scores report released Tuesday.
Municipalities can fall into one of four categories — no designation, "susceptible" to stress, or moderately or significantly stressed.
The stress test measures financial indicators such as fund balances and patterns of operating deficits.
Suffolk was the most fiscally stressed county in the state each of the past four years, according to the comptroller’s office.
Nassau was rated as susceptible to fiscal stress in last year's report.
Suffolk’s fiscal stress level declined by 45 points compared with 2020, to 19.2 points.
However, the report said, while Suffolk had no designation, the county still had the second-highest fiscal stress score of any county in the state in 2021, behind only Otsego County.
Nassau County’s score for fiscal stress declined by 30 points to 14.6 in 2021, compared with 2020. Nassau tied Westchester County last year with the fourth-highest stress levels in New York.
The report attributed much of the improvement in Suffolk, Nassau and other counties to an influx of temporary federal pandemic aid and increased sales tax revenues.
Nassau has received a total of $385 million through the American Rescue Plan act while Suffolk County has received a total of $286 million.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, a Democrat, said in a news release that DiNapoli's report indicated the county has been making the “right fiscal decisions.”
Bellone said, “working together with the County Legislature and County Comptroller to implement sensible fiscal reforms and make tough decisions to protect taxpayers continues to move County finances in a positive and sustainable direction.”
In a statement to Newsday, Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, a Republican, called the county's improved stress score "a result of my administration’s steadfast commitment to fiscal responsibility and desire to tackle head on, issues that were swept under the rug by previous administrations.”
Still, “municipalities shouldn’t assume this will last,” DiNapoli said of the improved stress scores.
“With the end of extraordinary federal aid, and a possible recession looming, local governments need to plan carefully to avoid fiscal cliffs in the future,” DiNapoli said in a statement.
Suffolk County Comptroller John M. Kennedy Jr., a Republican who lost to Bellone for country executive in 2019, said there had been no real change in how county money is spent.
“I think that we are not poised to be in a long-term better financial position,” Kennedy told Newsday. “I think that this is only a short-term bubble.”
DiNapoli’s report follows an upgrade in Suffolk County’s bond rating by the credit rating agency S&P Global Ratings, from A- to A+.