According to Mayor Miner: Sound, Responsible, and Difficult Decisions Keep Syracuse Out of Fiscal Stress

NYS Comptroller DiNapoli and Syracuse Mayor Miner Detail How Syracuse Fared in DiNapoli’s Fiscal Stress Monitoring System

Miner: This Designation Demonstrates Our Administration’s Commitment to Responsible Fiscal Management

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Mayor Stephanie A. Miner highlighted findings from the Office of New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli that showed for the third straight year that the City is not considered to be fiscally stressed. For 2015, Syracuse received a score of 32.5 percent through State Comptroller DiNapoli’s Fiscal Stress Monitoring System.

“This ‘no stress’ designation demonstrates the commitment my administration has to making tough choices and delivering results for the people of the City of Syracuse. Our efforts have resulted in recognition from all corners. We have been the recipient of good bond ratings from Wall Street and once again the Comptroller’s office has acknowledged our work through the Fiscal Stress Monitoring System,” said Syracuse Mayor Stephanie A. Miner. “There is still much work to do to ensure our finances are sustainable in the long-term. It is critical New York State provide serious mandate relief and offer further assistance to municipalities.”

Syracuse City Hall

Syracuse City Hall

“Mayor Miner continues to face the city’s tough fiscal challenges head-on,” said New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. “She has acknowledged that the financial issues that affect Syracuse are ongoing and will require persistence and careful management. Wisely, the mayor has developed a multi-year financial plan that addresses potential budget gaps and operational deficits. This type of forward-thinking can help a municipality become more efficient, more creative and more effective with the resources that are available. I have no doubt that Mayor Miner and her colleagues can continue to build on their successes.”

Using financial indicators that include year-end fund balance, short-term borrowing and patterns of operating deficits, State Comptroller DiNapoli’s monitoring system creates an overall fiscal stress score which classifies whether a municipality is in “significant fiscal stress,” in “moderate fiscal stress,” is “susceptible to fiscal stress” or has “no designation.” Syracuse has a “no designation” classification.

Several factors have stabilized the City’s finances including upgrades to bond ratings, diligence to paying off debt and other budget decisions. See Fiscal Stress Charts

Bond Ratings

The City of Syracuse has seen its bond ratings increase several times during the Miner administration. Currently, all three rating agencies give Syracuse a stable outlook. Moody’s gives the City an A1 rating; S&P and Fitch both give the City A ratings. The bond ratings stem from, in part, the City’s decision not to borrow for operating expenses. S&P complimented the City administration when stated in their 2014 analysis, “the strong management to continue reducing budget gaps and maintaining flexibility.”

Pension Smoothing

Mayor Miner elected not to participate in the New York State Stable Rate Contribution Option, which was proposed and adopted in the enacted state budget in 2013. The City performed a 25-year projection of what costs would have been for pension payments if the City had participated in this program, which could have resulted in as much as $248 million in additional costs to the City at a time where new revenue is largely flat and local governments are handicapped by the New York State 2 percent property tax cap.

Mayor Miner made addressing pension funding issues a signature topic of her administration, writing an op-ed for the New York Times and hosting meetings with mayors from all of upstate New York’s major cities to discuss solutions to municipal pension funding issues.

Service Agreements

Mayor Miner has entered into three service agreements with major local not-for-profit institutions. The total property value in the City of Syracuse is $7,695,917,792. Of that, $3,994,988,502 – 51.9% of the City’s property value – is tax exempt.

  1. Syracuse University, June, 2011. The first service agreement with Syracuse University was negotiated in 1994 and served as a funding mechanism for organizations under the umbrella of the University Neighborhood Services Agreement Advisory Committee. This created a funding stream just for neighborhood groups. In 2011, Mayor Miner announced a second agreement with the University which directed $500,000 into the City’s general fund to pay for services for five years.

 

  1. Crouse Hospital, November, 2012. The first of its kind agreement with a Syracuse hospital, the agreement with Crouse will result in four years of $50,000 payments to the City to help defer operating expenses.

 

  1. Syracuse University, April, 2016. Renegotiating the terms of the 2011 service agreement and expanding terms of the expiring 1990s-era UNSAAC agreement, the City of Syracuse will receive $7 million over five years from the University. Payments will start at $800,000 increasing annually in $50,000 increments for five years. Additionally, annual funding for organizations under the UNSAAC umbrella will increase to $500,000.

 

Debt Service

The City of Syracuse has followed a conservative financial practice of paying its debt service on time and in full. The debt service (Government Obligations) for the City of Syracuse (including the School District and Airport) for the fiscal year 2015 was $43,915,700—principal payment was $33,219,000 and the interest payment was $10,696,700.

About DiNapoli’s Fiscal Stress Monitoring System

State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli has created an early warning monitoring system to identify municipalities and school districts experiencing signs of budgetary strain so that corrective actions can be taken before a full financial crisis develops.

Using data already submitted by more than 3,000 local governments, DiNapoli’s office calculates and publicizes an overall score of fiscal stress for municipalities and school districts across the state. These scores classify whether a community is in “significant fiscal stress,” “moderate fiscal stress,” “susceptible to fiscal stress,” or “no designation.” This system is based on a process that DiNapoli’s auditors have been using to detect financial problems in communities.

Localities currently facing some level of fiscal stress include:

  • 18 of 538 villages, with a fiscal year ending on May 31, 2015(third round of scores for villages)
  • 82 of 700 school districts with fiscal years ending June 30, 2015 (third round of scores for schools)
  • 44 of more than 1,000 local governments with fiscal years ending December 31, 2014 (third round of scores for all counties, all towns and most cities)

For a list of stress scores, visit: http://osc.state.ny.us/localgov/fiscalmonitoring/lists.htm