Colonie’s finances ranked among the worst

Supervisor says news expected, while her opponent attacks her administration

— Colonie is one of the most fiscally stressed municipalities in New York state, according to a report conducted by State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli. The news has also drawn the first political pot shot of in this election year.

DiNapoli released fiscal stress scores of the state’s 1,043 counties, towns, cities and villages ending their fiscal years on Dec. 31, 2012. Six areas, including the Town of Colonie, were rated as being the most stressed. Using DiNapoli’s new Fiscal Stress Monitoring System, which looks at 23 financial and environmental indicators, Colonie was rated at 65.8 percent. Monroe County took the highest score, at 82.1 percent.

The monitoring system rates factors like fund balance, operating deficit and cash ratio on a scale from zero to three, with three being the worst. Over the 2012 fiscal year, Colonie received a rating of three for both its fund balance and cash ratio, or cash on hand to pay liabilities. The scores each carry their own weight. Fund balance is the most heavily weighed at 50 percent of the total score.

“I don’t think this comes as a surprise to at least the elected officials in Colonie, but maybe more to the residents,” said Brian Butry, a spokesman for DiNapoli.

The system also looks at demographic factors, including population changes, child poverty rates, median age and property value changes. With these indicators, Colonie received a score of one for a change in child poverty rate and a two for change in property value over a four-year average.

Town Supervisor Paula Mahan said she wasn’t surprised by the results, but added the system is unfair in focusing so heavily on fund balance. The town had a $21 million deficit in 2008, and Mahan said it was important to eliminate that before building up reserves.

“We are headed in the direction the New York State Comptroller wants us to be headed in, but as he knows and his office understands, this is a process and we are at the stage of building reserves and it’s going to take time to get to that point. We’re committed to that,” Mahan said. “We have and we continue to be extremely conservative. We count every penny.”

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