2 lead­ers take is­sue with ‘fis­cal stress’ list

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Wil­liam J. Kem­ble news@free­manon­line.com

A Mid-Hud­son school of­fi­cial and town su­per­vi­sor say a state Comp­trol­ler’s Of­fice re­port on “fis­cal stress” fails to take into ac­count cir­cum­stances that can strain school and mu­nic­i­pal bud­gets.

The re­port, based on 2015 fi­nan­cial state­ments and is­sued Tues­day, says that in the Mid-Hud­son re­gion, the vil­lage of Tan­nersville is un­der “sig­nif­i­cant” fis­cal stress, the Rhinebeck and New Paltz school dis­tricts are un­der “mod­er­ate” fis­cal stress, and the town of Rochester and vil­lage of Catskill are “sus­cep­ti­ble” to fis­cal stress.

Rhinebeck school dis­trict As­sis­tant Su­per­in­ten­dent Thomas Bur­nell said hav­ing the dis­trict

go from no fis­cal stress in 2013-14 to mod­er­ate stress in 2014-15 re­quires an ex­pla­na­tion that is not pro­vided in Comp­trol­ler Thomas DiNapoli’s re­port.

“The rea­son for the fis­cal stress ... in the 2014-15 school year is we had an ex­or­bi­tant amount of spe­cial [ed­u­ca­tion] costs that were not bud­geted,” Bur­nell said.

Bur­nell said was only one spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion stu­dent with large ex­penses when the bud­get was adopted, but by the be­gin­ning of the school year, there were nine stu­dents for whom the to­tal cost was about $500,000.

“We had a big in­flux of stu­dents that came in af­ter the bud­get was set­tled, so that was main rea­son we had fis­cal stress that we had not had be­fore,” Bur­nell said. “That one par­tic­u­lar year did cause us to take a fi­nan­cial hit, and due to the tax cap

(the state limit on how much a school dis­trict’s prop­erty tax levy can be in­creased from one year to the next), it is hard to build back up funds any­more.”

DiNapoli said in the re­port that “chal­lenges fac­ing lo­cal gov­ern­ments across the state are real. Our mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem has shown that for those lo­cal­i­ties ex­pe­ri­enc­ing fi­nan­cial hard­ship, it can be dif­fi­cult to over­come chal­lenges that have been years in the mak­ing. Lo­cal of­fi­cials should be care­fully

ex­am­in­ing their scores and us­ing this sys­tem to de­ter­mine how they can bud­get pru­dently and de­velop re­al­is­tic long-term fi­nan­cial plans.” DiNapoli said the stress des­ig­na­tions are based on fund bal­ances, cash avail­abil­ity and the size of op­er­at­ing deficits in bud­gets.

Town of Rochester Su­per­vi­sor Carl Chip­man said the im­prove­ment of his town’s fis­cal stress stand­ing from “mod­er­ate” to “sus­cep­ti­ble” is the re­sult of work that be­gan even be­fore the “mod­er­ate”

des­ig­na­tion was given.

“The list doesn’t tell the story, be­cause it’s just num­bers and they don’t show what’s re­ally go­ing on in a com­mu­nity,” Chip­man said.

“We’re no longer us­ing any un­al­lo­cated fund bal­ance to­ward the tax levy, al­though taxes haven’t gone up, and we’re show­ing greater con­straints on the high­way fund on spend­ing,” he said.

The vil­lage of Sauger­ties and town of Marl­bor­ough were lis­ter in the comp­trol­ler’s re­port as not hav­ing

filed fi­nan­cial state­ments with the state.

Sauger­ties Mayor Wil­liam Mur­phy said the vil­lage was granted an ex­ten­sion due to a change of trea­sur­ers and that the pa­per­work was filed within the last week.

There was no im­me­di­ate ex­pla­na­tion for the lack of fil­ing by Marl­bor­ough.

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