Publications: Research Report

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Statewide Local Sales Tax Collections in January Down 5.9 Percent

Local government sales tax collections declined by 5.9 percent, or $95 million, in January compared to the same month in 2020. The decline is less steep than the 8.4 percent drop in December and not nearly as significant as the double-digit declines in the earlier months of the pandemic (April-June). All but one region – Central New York – in the state experienced a decrease in cash collections; New York City had a 6 percent, or $45 million, decline compared to January 2020. | Regional Table [.xlsx]

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Local Sales Tax Collections Decline by 10 Percent in 2020, With Major Shifts in Consumer Spending

New York State local sales tax collections declined by 10 percent (or $1.8 billion) in 2020 compared to 2019, due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 global pandemic. New York City, which was hit earliest and hardest by the pandemic, saw its collections decline by 18.7 percent in 2020, while counties outside the City saw an average drop of only -0.9 percent. The pandemic also caused a dramatic shift in consumer spending during the spring and summer months. One change was a significant increase in online purchases. Meanwhile, the state’s recent ability to tax sales made by smaller out-of-state sellers to New York residents – referred to as “marketplace and nexus vendors” – bolstered local sales tax collections. | Regional Table [.xlsx]

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Fiscal Stress Monitoring System - School Districts: School Year 2019-20 Results; 2020-21 Risks

This snapshot highlights the FSMS results for school districts that reported for school fiscal year (SY) 2019-20, which ended on June 30, 2020, which included the period of the statewide mandatory school shutdown from March 18 through the end of the school year. The snapshot also discusses some of the major fiscal stress risk factors posed by the pandemic for school districts in SY 2020-21 (not yet scored).

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Statewide November Local Sales Tax Collections Down 7.1 Percent

Local government sales tax collections declined by 7.1 percent, or $102 million, in November compared to the same month in 2019. The decline is steeper than in October, but not as bad as the double-digit declines in the earlier months (April-June) of the pandemic. All but five counties saw declines in overall collections in November, and New York City had a 6.5 percent, or $45 million, decline. | Regional Table [.xlsx]

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Statewide Local Sales Tax Collections Decline 5.2 Percent in October

Local government sales tax revenue declined by 5.2 percent, or $74.4 million, in October compared to the same month in 2019. This drop was less severe than previous declines since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in the spring when collections fell by double-digits. New York City had a 5.3 percent, or $34.5 million, decline in revenue, and all but eight counties in the state saw drops in collections for October as well. | Regional Table [.xlsx]

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Voting From Home: Summary of the 2020-21 School District Budget Vote

Participation in school district budget votes has been relatively low, particularly since the implementation of the tax cap. In response to the pandemic, school districts in New York State were required to provide all residents with an absentee ballot for the 2020-21 school budget vote. This new process likely contributed to an increase in participation: triple the number of votes were cast compared to the prior year. However, even with a slightly higher percentage of votes cast against the budgets, the ultimate results were similar to those of last year’s traditional voting process: nearly all budgets were approved on the first vote. For district-level information: http://wwe1.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/research-budget-votes/budget-votes.cfm.

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Third Quarter 2020 Local Sales Tax Collections Down 9.5 Percent; New York City’s Decline Offsets Uptick in the Rest of State

Statewide local sales tax collections in the third quarter of 2020 declined by 9.5 percent, or $452 million, over the same quarter in 2019. This decrease, while alarming in a typical year, was still a marked improvement from the 27.1 percent drop in the second quarter, which reflected the peak of the economic impact to date from the COVID-19 pandemic. New York City’s steep decline of nearly 22 percent in sales tax revenue was the main driver behind the overall drop in local government collections in the third quarter. Nearly every other region of the state saw at least some increase over the third quarter of 2019, although these increases were not as strong as in the pre-COVID first quarter. | Regional Table [.xlsx]

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Understanding Local Government Sales Tax in New York State - 2020 Update

New York State imposes a "general sales tax" at a single rate on most goods and some services. Counties and cities can impose their own local sales tax in addition to the State rate. Local sales tax revenue is a major part of local government finances, amounting to $16.9 billion in 2019. This report is an update to the Office of the State Comptroller’s March 2015 publication on local government sales taxes in New York State.

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Fiscal Stress Monitoring System - Municipalities: Fiscal Year 2019 Results; Fiscal Year 2020 Risks

This snapshot highlights the results for counties, cities, towns and villages that reported for local fiscal years ending (FYE) 2019. These scores, therefore, provide a baseline for local government fiscal preparedness in the period just prior to the pandemic. To provide additional context for these results, this snapshot also examines some of the biggest local government fiscal stress risk factors arising from the COVID-19 crisis.

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Local Sales Tax Collections Down 7.8 Percent in August

Local government sales tax revenue declined by 7.8 percent, or $111 million, in August compared to the same month last year. This drop in revenue is similar to the overall decline in July of 8.2 percent, though much less extreme than the early months of the pandemic when sales tax collections plummeted by double digits. All but two counties in the state experienced decreases in overall collections for August, and New York City’s collections dropped by 7.1 percent. | Regional Table [.xlsx]

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Local Sales Tax Collections Drop 8.2 Percent in July

Sales tax collections for local governments in July totaled $1.3 billion, or $116 million less than in July 2019. Although the month’s collections are down compared with last year, the decline is less steep than at any time since March, when the COVID-19 pandemic began to affect sales tax collections. Nearly every county in every region of the state saw decreases, and New York City experienced a 7.3 percent decline. | Regional Table [.xlsx]

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Second Quarter Local Sales Tax Collections Down Significantly; June Collections Improve for Most Regions

Sales tax revenue for local governments in the second quarter of 2020 totaled $3.3 billion, a decline of $1.2 billion compared to the same period last year. The second quarter drop came after a 4.6 percent increase in first quarter collections, the strength of which was partly due to better collection of taxes on internet sales from small, out-of-state merchants. However, within the second quarter, collections for the month of June showed some improvement in most regions with many upstate counties experiencing year-over-year growth. | Monthly and Quarterly Local Sales Tax Collections by Region [.xlsx]

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Performance of Industrial Development Agencies in New York State - 2020 Annual Report

The report summarizes most recently completed data (fiscal year ending 2018) found in these annual reports. In addition to reviewing IDA data, the Office of the State Comptroller (OSC) provides training to IDA officials on various topics, including recent legislative reforms and how to improve their compliance with reporting requirements. | Interactive Map

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Under Pressure: Local Government Revenue Challenges During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Our State’s local governments are being tested on many fronts as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic. This report will examine some of the major risks to these revenue sources, the dependence of local governments on each, and the effects of federal government actions to help keep local governments afloat thus far.

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Local Sales Tax Collection Drops Over 32 Percent in May

Sales tax revenue for local governments in May totaled $918 million, or $437 million less than 2019. The sharp decline in revenues was widespread around the state, ranging from a drop of 19.5 percent in Westchester County to a 41.5 percent decline in Tioga County. Nearly every county in every region of the state saw a large drop in overall collections. New York City experienced a 31.9 percent decline, amounting to $196 million in lost revenues for a single month.

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Local Sales Tax Collections Declined 24.4 Percent in April, after COVID-19 Shutdown

Plummeting sales tax collections were widespread, leaving counties, cities and some other local governments short by about $327 million compared to last year. Although the first quarter of 2020 was relatively strong, March sales tax collections had already begun to show the impact of the COVID-19 shutdown–a decrease of 3.7 percent statewide with the largest declines downstate. The April figures show shrinking revenues for local governments throughout the state.

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Local Sales Tax Growth Strong in First Quarter of 2020 Prior to Global Pandemic

New York State local sales tax collections in the first quarter (January-March) of 2020 totaled $4.4 billion. This was an increase of 4.6 percent over the same period last year, mostly reflecting sales made before the statewide implementation of business and office closures and social distancing policies in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Special Report Update: Education Revenues and Expenditures With a Highlight on Special Education For Regions Outside New York City

New York’s school districts are responsible for one of the most important functions of government – educating children from kindergarten through 12th grade. Each district must navigate a complex set of State rules and local needs and determine how to fund its programs using a mix of local property taxes and State and federal aid sources. This report provides regional analysis of certain financial and demographic data for New York’s school districts outside of New York City. It presents this information to identify the levels and recent trends in revenue, expenditures, district wealth, student characteristics and outcomes, and special education services that could impact district budgets. | School District Level Data [xlsx]

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A Grade of Incomplete: Persistent Non-Filers of Legally Required Local Government Reports

Local officials are statutorily required to file certain financial reports annually with the Office of the State Comptroller (OSC). While most local governments file within required timeframes, some do not. A relatively small number of local governments are severely delinquent—failing to file for three or more years—which calls into question the financial standing of the locality as well as the effectiveness of the management of the local government in general.

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Growth in Local Sales Tax Collections Remains Strong in 2019 Due to Robust Second Half

Local sales tax collections in New York State totaled $18.3 billion in 2019 for a year-over-year increase of 4.7 percent. While this was slower than the 5.3 percent annual growth for 2018, it exceeded growth in all other years since 2013. The economic climate in 2019 was generally positive for sales tax growth. The statewide labor market remained firm throughout the year, with continued employment and wage growth. Consumer spending also held up well throughout the year, despite slightly reduced consumer confidence over prior years.

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Fiscal Stress in School Districts: Common Themes for School Year 2018-19

This report summarizes results of school district scores for the 2018-19 fiscal school year (SY) and compares results to SYs 2016-17 and 2017-18. The report reflects the seventh annual release of FSMS scores. FSMS covers 674 school districts in 57 counties, but excludes the New York City School District.

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Local Government Debt Trends and Practices in New York State

Local government debt is necessary for the funding of expensive and long-lived capital infrastructure. However, high debt can place pressure on a local government’s ability to pay debt service while still addressing other funding needs, and increasing reliance on short-term debt could be a sign of structural budget imbalance. Local debt outstanding appears to have stabilized since the last recession, after more than a decade of substantial increases. Some types of local government, especially counties and fire districts, have continued to increase their total levels of debt. In general, downstate has the highest debt per capita, although there are pockets of higher debt around the State.

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Local Sales Tax Collections Growth Improves in Third Quarter of 2019

Local sales tax collections in New York State totaled $4.8 billion in the third quarter of 2019, an increase of 6.3 percent over the third quarter of 2018. This growth was stronger than in either of the first two quarters of the year.

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Property Taxes in New York State

The Office of the State Comptroller collects property tax levy and assessed value data from local governments statewide and makes this information available online. These detailed tables show tax levies, property values and tax rates for each city, county, town, village and school district in the State. This report uses 2019 data to summarize property tax results and trends in the State. 

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Fiscal Stress Monitoring System Results for Municipalities: Common Themes for Fiscal Year 2018

This report summarizes the fiscal and environmental results of all 1,586 New York counties, cities, towns and villages for their fiscal years ending (FYE) in 2018 and compares results to FYE 2017. It also points to useful tools to help local governments experiencing stress, such as multiyear financial planning to ensure that financial resources are available for future needs. 

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Smart Solutions Across the State: Advanced Technology in Local Governments

The City of Schenectady recently began installing energy saving LED street lights and expanding wireless connectivity to certain neighborhoods as part of its Smart City Project. Other local governments across New York State are also turning to new technologies to save money, better communicate with residents and allow taxpayers to make payments online. The report notes that local government leaders should be prepared to systematically address the heightened need for cybersecurity, particularly concerning smart infrastructure devices and related data.

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Hitting the Limit: The Constitutional Tax Limit and its Implications for Local Governments

New York State’s Constitutional Tax Limit (CTL) restricts the amounts local governments may raise by taxing real estate in any fiscal year. All cities, counties and villages must comply. Overall, relatively few municipalities are dangerously close to their CTL; however, the number has been increasing in recent years. For these communities, the CTL poses a serious constraint on their ability to generate revenue. This report, using data through 2018, examines recent trends in the proximity of cities (excluding New York City), counties and villages to the CTL and focuses in more detail on those for whom the CTL poses the biggest budgeting challenge.

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New York State School Safety: A Statewide and Regional Review

Parents, educators, the public and State policymakers agree that student safety must be a top priority in every school. This report summarizes some of the information reported by New York’s public school districts on violent and disruptive incidents and expenditures on school building security materials and equipment, and includes a series of regional profiles.

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Growth in Local Sales Tax Collections Slows in the First Half of 2019

Local sales tax collections for the first half of 2019 totaled $8.8 billion in New York State. Collections grew by 3.4 percent and 3.2 percent in the first and second quarters, respectively, over the same periods in 2018. This moderate pace is closer to those seen in most of 2017 than to the stronger early quarters of 2018.

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Annual Performance Report on New York State's Industrial Development Agencies - Fiscal Year Ending 2017

In 2017, the State’s 109 active Industrial Development Agencies reported projects valued at $98.1 billion, with over $750 million in net annual tax exemptions and $8.0 billion in total debt outstanding, including conduit and other debt. They supported 4,385 projects that produced a net total of 198,522 jobs gained since their inception through 2017. | Interactive Map

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Long Island Region Economic Snapshot

Broadly speaking, Long Island residents enjoy a high quality of life, reflected in high median incomes, relatively low unemployment and crime rates, strong public schools, numerous higher education opportunities and many cultural and natural recreational activities. However, the region's population and economic growth comes with challenges, such as traffic congestion and high property taxes.

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Foreclosure Update: Signs of Progress

Statewide, foreclosure filings fell by 46 percent between 2013 and 2018. Foreclosure rates are highest in the Long Island and the Mid- Hudson regions. Only four counties— Clinton, Putnam, Rockland, and Suffolk— have a foreclosure rate over 1 percent. Other stakeholders are pursuing efforts to reduce harm to local governments and communities caused by “zombie properties.”

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Sales Tax Growth Strengthens for a Third Year: 2018 Collections Up 5.3 Percent

Local sales tax collections in New York State were $17.5 billion in 2018, a 5.3 percent increase over the previous calendar year and the third consecutive year that growth in collections improved. Certain economic factors may be contributing to this improvement--more than 62,000 additional New York residents were employed in 2018, total wages for the first two quarters increased by nearly 5.7 percent compared to the same period in the prior year, consumer confidence has remained high and consumer spending has been mostly steady throughout the year.

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Fiscal Stress in School Districts Common Themes for School Year 2017-18

This report summarizes results of school district scores for the 2017-18 school fiscal year (SY) and compares results to SY 2016- 17.

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Local Governments and the Municipal Solid Waste Landfill Business

Local governments or public authorities own 20 of the State’s 27 municipal solid waste landfills, the type of landfills that take in most of what we typically think of as “garbage”—residential, commercial and institutional waste. This report examines the role of local governments in solid waste management, with particular attention to the issues they confront as municipal solid waste landfill owners.

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Fiscal Stress Monitoring System Results for Municipalities: Common Themes for Fiscal Year 2017

The Fiscal Stress Monitoring System (FSMS) annually assesses fiscal stress in local governments and school districts. This report summarizes the fiscal and environmental results of all 1,589 New York counties, cities, towns and villages for their fiscal years ending in 2017.

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First Half of 2018: Highest Growth in Local Sales Tax Collections in Almost Eight Years

Local sales tax collections in New York State for the first half of 2018 were $8.5 billion, a 6.0 percent increase over the same period last year. This was the highest half-year increase since 2010, growing in every region of the State compared to the first half of 2017. Factors that may have influenced this include the lowest unemployment rate in over a decade, steady wage growth in the first half of 2018 and high consumer confidence.

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Professional Service Procurement: Considerations for Local Officials

A number of laws govern the procurement of goods and services. Seeking competition guards against favoritism, extravagance, fraud and corruption. However, there is a well-established exception to these competitive bidding requirements for professional services, such as those rendered by attorneys, engineers or accountants, where cost is only one element that a responsible local official would want to consider. This report discusses some categories of professional services, the costs associated with these services and recent audit findings by OSC about local procurement policies and their implementation. The report also highlights best practices that local governments and school districts can follow that may reduce costs. 

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Mohawk Valley Region Economic Profile

The Mohawk Valley Region’s dominant economic center is the Utica-Rome metropolitan area. Unemployment and child poverty rates are higher in the Region than for the State as a whole, while household income is below the State median. While the Region has lost industries and employers over the past couple of decades, there has recently been a modest increase in new manufacturing jobs. Also, the City of Utica has harnessed its surplus of affordable housing by reaching out to refugees to come and establish families and businesses in the area.

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Dam Infrastructure: Understanding and Managing the Risks

New York State has over 5,000 functioning dams, 861 of which are owned or co-owned by local governments. Local officials need to manage this infrastructure effectively, not only to preserve important capital assets, but also because it is a necessary investment in public safety. This report focuses on those dams that would pose the greatest risks in case of failure and therefore warrant the most careful monitoring and management. The report also discusses steps local officials and residents can take to manage those risks. | Interactive Map

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Annual Performance Report on New York State’s Industrial Development Agencies Fiscal Year Ending 2016

In 2016, the State’s 109 active Industrial Development Agencies reported projects valued at $95.6 billion, with nearly $715 million in net annual tax exemptions and $10.0 billion in total debt outstanding, including conduit and other debt. They supported 4,451 projects that had created 208,707 jobs from their inception through 2016. | Interactive Map

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A Partially Treated Problem: Overflows From Combined Sewers

Most large urban areas in New York State are served by municipal sewer systems, many of which commingle stormwater with the wastewater from homes and businesses in combined sewer systems. The flows from combined sewers can overwhelm treatment systems and have a harmful impact on the environment. This report, as part of the Office of the State Comptroller’s infrastructure series, describes the current scale of the problem in the State and some of the steps being taken to remediate it. 

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Property Tax Exemptions

Property tax exemptions can be a valuable tool to improve the affordability of housing for certain populations, fuel economic growth or encourage the adoption of energy-smart technologies. This report examines the amount and variety of property tax exemptions in New York State outside of New York City. It also looks at the specific points in the process where local governments can exercise some discretion, including the types of exemptions offered, how to ensure that exemptions are properly awarded and the use of alternative methods for raising revenue.

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Local Sales Tax Growth in 2017 Highest in Four Years

Local sales tax collections for calendar year 2017 totaled $16.6 billion, an increase of $620 million, or 3.9 percent, from the previous year. This marks the highest year-over-year growth since 2013. 

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Fiscal Stress in School Districts Common Themes for School Year 2016-17

The Office of the New York State Comptroller’s Fiscal Stress Monitoring System (FSMS) measures fiscal stress in school districts each year. This report summarizes results of school district scores for the 2016-17 school fiscal year, the fifth annual release of FSMS scores.

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North Country Region Economic Profile

This report highlights the North Country region's geography, demographics, municipalities, economy and labor markets, and includes a discussion about what the future may hold for the region.

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Oversight and Monitoring of Municipal Water Systems

This report summarizes common findings from audits of 161 local government and 7 public authority water systems from January 2012 through May 2017. These audits identify deficiencies in financial management, including consistent overestimation of water revenues, incorrect billing, improper transfer of money between water and other funds, and insufficient internal controls and long-term planning. Many audits have also found other problems in water system operations, including significant losses as water travels from its sources to its users.

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Local Bridges by the Numbers

Bridges are structures of chronic concern, both because of the degree to which we rely on them and the risks they pose should they fail. This report offers a quick look at New York’s bridges, including those in New York City. In 2016, 11 percent of all New York bridges were structurally deficient, according to federal standards. Bridges owned by New York’s local governments and authorities are more likely than State-owned bridges to be structurally deficient (12.8 percent compared to 9.0 percent). | Interactive Data

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Fiscal Stress Monitoring System Results for Municipalities: Four Year Review, 2013 - 2016

The Fiscal Stress Monitoring System (FSMS) annually assesses fiscal stress in local governments and school districts. This report examines and summarizes notable trends in the fiscal scores of all 1,595 New York counties, cities, towns and villages regardless of their fiscal year end dates, for the period 2013 through 2016. 

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Finger Lakes Region Economic Profile

This report highlights the Finger Lakes region’s geography, demographics, municipalities, economy and labor markets, and includes a discussion about what the future may hold for the region.

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First Half of 2017: Local Sales Tax Growth Ticks Up Statewide

For the first half of calendar year 2017, local sales tax collections were $8.0 billion, a 3.3 percent increase over the same period last year. This is a slight improvement over the last several half-year periods. Economic factors supporting these results include continued low unemployment and high consumer confidence. Sales taxes were also boosted by growth in collections from sales of motor fuels.

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The Impact of Federal Aid on New York’s Local Governments

Federal aid is a critical component of local government revenues. Proposed changes to federal education policy, expanded military spending and the Executive Order declaring "sanctuary jurisdictions" ineligible for some federal grants could also affect New York's local governments. This report and the accompanying interactive data use information reported by local governments to help local officials and citizens understand how they could be affected by such changes. | Interactive Data

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Fire Protection in New York State: How Is It Provided in Your Community?

The system for providing fire protection services throughout New York State can be surprisingly complex. This report will provide an overview of the organization, administration, membership benefits, and common OSC audit findings for fire protection entities.

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Annual Performance Report on New York State’s Industrial Development Agencies - Fiscal Year Ending 2015

In 2015, the State’s 109 active Industrial Development Agencies reported projects valued at $88.7 billion, with nearly $700 million in net annual tax exemptions and $11.4 billion in total debt outstanding, including conduit and other debt. They supported 4,484 projects that had created 224,734 jobs from their inception through 2015. Interactive Map

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Education in New York Nine Regional Snapshots Outside New York City

New York State requires school districts to report extensive data on their finances, student demographics and outcomes, teachers, school facilities, school climate and other factors. This report offers a regional perspective on some of this data. Looking at the results this way highlights geographic variation in these indicators.  Interactive Map | Technical Appendix [pdf]

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Drinking Water Systems in New York The Challenges of Aging Infrastructure

An overview of the different ways in which public water supplies are provided, regulated and funded in New York State. The report addresses specific concerns facing local governments including funding trends, capital planning practices and the emerging risk areas of contamination and security.

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2016 Local Sales Tax Collections

While total local sales tax collections in New York State grew by only 0.7 percent in 2016, the modest increase was largely due to a multiyear correction that inflated New York City's 2015 collections. After adjusting for this correction, total local growth was about $357 million over the prior year, or about 2.3 percent.

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Fiscal Stress Monitoring System Results for School Districts: Four-Year Review

The Fiscal Stress Monitoring System (FSMS) annually assesses fiscal stress in local governments and school districts. This is the fourth annual FSMS scoring of school districts, showing results for the four school years through 2015-16.

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Central New York Region - Economic Profile

This report highlights the Central New York region’s geography, demographics, municipalities, economy and labor markets, and includes a discussion about what the future may hold for the region.

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Land Banks Enter the Fight Against Blight

This report explains what land banks are, discusses how they can help local governments cope with high concentrations of vacant and abandoned properties and identifies factors that could determine their long-term success. 

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Fiscal Stress Monitoring System Results for Municipalities: Three-Year Review

This report examines and summarizes notable trends in the fiscal scores of all New York counties, cities, towns and villages regardless of their fiscal year end dates, for the period 2013 to 2015.

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Local Sales Tax Collections Slow in First Half of 2016

Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, Orange, Dutchess, Ulster and Sullivan counties make up New York’s Mid-Hudson region. Much of the region is suburban, with greater development near the Hudson River, Metro-North railroad stations and major roadways into New York City. Economically, the Mid-Hudson region is relatively prosperous: county median incomes and property values are both well above the State and national averages as are the costs of living and doing business there. Current unemployment is below 5 percent in most of the counties, with a significant number of residents commuting to New York City. Recent economic development efforts have focused on attracting biotechnology and other high-tech manufacturing and on activities that take advantage of the region’s extensive road systems and generally well-developed infrastructure.

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Mid-Hudson Region - Economic Profile

Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, Orange, Dutchess, Ulster and Sullivan counties make up New York’s Mid-Hudson region. Much of the region is suburban, with greater development near the Hudson River, Metro-North railroad stations and major roadways into New York City. Economically, the Mid-Hudson region is relatively prosperous: county median incomes and property values are both well above the State and national averages as are the costs of living and doing business there. Current unemployment is below 5 percent in most of the counties, with a significant number of residents commuting to New York City. Recent economic development efforts have focused on attracting biotechnology and other high-tech manufacturing and on activities that take advantage of the region’s extensive road systems and generally well-developed infrastructure.

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Protecting Sensitive Data and Other Local Government Assets: A Non-Technical Cybersecurity Guide for Local Leaders

Audits conducted by OSC have shown that some types of weaknesses are persistently prevalent in local government and school district IT systems, regardless of the complexity or size of the system. This guide provides information for local leaders on some of the more common cybersecurity attacks and what can be done to help prevent a breach in the future.

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Annual Performance Report on New York State's Industrial Development Agencies - Fiscal Year Ending 2014

This report provides an analysis of annual financial data reported to the Office of the State Comptroller and the Authorities Budget Office by IDAs for fiscal year 2014, discusses regional impacts and highlights a new law championed by Comptroller DiNapoli, which increases transparency in IDA operations.

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Foreclosure Update From a Local Government Perspective

This brief focuses on prolonged foreclosure activity in New York State and the challenges facing local governments and communities in the wake of the foreclosure crisis.

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New York State School Aid: Two Perspectives

This report examines the recent history of school aid, highlighting the opportunities and challenges presented by this year’s budget. The first section looks at aid from the school district perspective, followed by a discussion in the context of New York’s overall budget.

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Local Sales Tax Collections Improve in 2015

Total local sales tax collections in New York State grew by $552 million, or 3.6 percent, from 2014 to 2015 This was stronger than the 3.0 percent increase in the prior year. New York City sales tax collections grew by 7.3 percent, or $487 million, about half of which was due to an adjustment for incorrect payments in previous years. Excluding New York City, growth in local sales tax collections was 0.7 percent, with 30 of 57 counties outside of New York City having declines in their 2015 sales tax collections.

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Three Years of School District Fiscal Stress Results: School Years 2012-13 to 2014-15

Three Years of School District Fiscal Stress Results: School Years 2012-13 to 2014-15 01/28/2016 - For school year 2014-15, OSC identified 82 school districts as experiencing some degree of fiscal stress: eight were in significant fiscal stress, 24 in moderate fiscal stress and 50 were susceptible to fiscal stress. The share of school districts experiencing fiscal stress has remained fairly stable over time. The tax cap continues to constrain districts’ ability to increase their property tax levies; for 2016-17 the growth factor will be 0.12 percent. 

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Are Off-Track Betting Corporations Nearing the Finish Line?

Declining trends in the horse racing industry and an increase in gaming options have taken their toll on OTBs. With the advent of commercial casinos in the State, policymakers have an opportunity to re-examine the viability of OTBs and how they fit into State-authorized gambling.

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Three Years of the Fiscal Stress Monitoring System - Results for Municipalities with Fiscal Years Ending on December 31, 2014

In September 2015, OSC released the third annual set of Fiscal Stress Monitoring System (FSMS) scores for all municipalities that have fiscal years that operate on a calendar year basis. This includes all 57 counties outside of New York City, all 932 towns in the State, 44 cities and 10 villages – a total of 1,043 municipalities. Since the FSMS now encompasses three years of data for these "calendar year" municipalities, it is possible to start to discern trends in the financial performance of these local governments. 

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The Foreclosure Predicament Persists

While trends in both new foreclosure filings and the total number of pending foreclosure cases indicate that the problem is far from resolved, there are small signs of improvement.

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Tax Cap Tightens As Inflation Drops: Local Governments Will Need to Prepare for Little or No Levy Growth

Based on Consumer Price Index data, the downward trend in inflation means that local governments operating on a December 31 fiscal year end will see the inflation factor decrease to 0.73 percent, causing a significant reduction over prior years in the allowable levy growth factor, an important component of their tax cap calculation. OSC estimates that these calendar year local governments will have roughly $135.1 million less than they would have had if the factor was at 2 percent.

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Local Sales Tax Collection Growth Slows Significantly in First Half of 2015

In the first half of 2015, total local sales tax collections in New York State grew by only about half of the 3.0 percent growth seen in all of 2014 and nearly two thirds less than the 4.2 percent average annual growth experienced over the previous 15 years. Sales tax revenue declined in half of the regions in the State, with the sharpest decline being in the North Country, which saw a 2.5 percent drop. | [read county-by-county data - pdf]

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County Tax Cap Recap: Fewer Counties Exceeding Levy Limits

In 2015, the number of counties exceeding the tax cap decreased substantially and only six counties exceeded the cap—a decrease of 54 percent from 2014. Among the counties that stayed within the tax levy limit in 2015, many have levied right up to the limit. Of these 51 counties, 23 levied taxes that amounted to 99 percent or more of their allowable tax levy limit. This may be due in part to the newly enacted Property Tax Freeze Credit. | [County Tax Cap Data as of April 30, 2015 - Excel]

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Fiscal Stress Close-Up Indicator Report

Fiscal Stress Monitoring System (FSMS) has five categories of indicators: fund balance, liquidity, short-term debt, operating deficits, and fixed costs. These indicators contribute to a local government’s final classification of Significant Stress, Moderate Stress, Susceptible to Stress or No Designation.

Issued:

Annual Performance Report on New York State's Industrial Development Agencies - Fiscal Year Ending 2013

IDAs are important for economic development in the State, but local officials need to improve their scrutiny over projects so that taxpayers know if their community is receiving promised jobs and economic benefits. Recent audits have found deficiencies in IDA processes for approving and monitoring projects, as well as for recouping benefits from projects that have failed to meet their goals.

Issued:

Local Authorities in New York State – An Overview

The State has approximately 639 local authorities operating outside of New York City. These authorities generally operate without many of the constraints and controls over day-to-day operations required of municipal governments. OSC audits have helped to shine a light on questionable practices from board member compensation to the selection and results of economic development projects. OSC continues to advocate for express audit authority over LDCs and other not-for-profit local authorities, better reporting requirements for all local authorities and legislation to achieve more transparent results. 

Issued:

Local Government Sales Taxes in New York State: 2015 Update

The sales tax generates 8 percent of all local government revenues in New York State and 27 percent of county revenues. This report examines the general sales and use tax imposed for local governments in the State. It covers the sales tax rates in counties and cities, and trends in sales tax revenues for local governments. It also includes an up-to-date county-level summary of sales tax sharing arrangements and discusses recent activity in the taxation of Internet sales.

Issued:

Three Years of the Tax Cap – Impact on School Districts

The number of school districts overriding the tax cap has declined each year. In general, school districts’ decisions to override the tax cap were based, at least in part, on necessity. When examining the relationship between fiscal stress and tax cap overrides, we found that fiscally stressed school districts were nearly three times more likely to override the tax cap when compared to school districts that were not designated as stressed. [2013-2015 Tax Cap Data - Excel]

Issued:

Local Sales Tax Collection Growth Slows to 3 Percent in 2014; Slowest Growth Since 2009

Local sales tax growth was slower in 2014 than in any year since the 2008-2009 recession, in part due to slow growth in the first quarter of the year. Long Island collections declined, some upstate counties had strong growth due to increased sales tax rates, and New York City's growth was relatively strong. | [read county-by-county data - pdf]

Issued:

Fiscal Stress Monitoring Summary Results: Common Themes for School Districts for 2013 to 2014

The districts experiencing fiscal stress are spread across the State. One indicator in particular—the operating deficit—saw substantial changes in the FSMS points assigned compared to the previous year: 19 percent received a higher FSMS score on this indicator, while 28 percent scored lower. Changes in scores for this indicator contributed to changes in districts’ overall levels of fiscal stress.

Issued:

Fiscal Stress Monitoring System Results for 2013 Calendar Year Entities

Overall, 35 entities were classified as being in some level of stress, with 10 designated as being in significant fiscal stress, 8 in moderate fiscal stress and 17 susceptible to fiscal stress.

Issued:

Growing Cracks in the Foundation: Local Governments Still Challenged to Keep Up with Vital Infrastructure Needs

This follow-up report expands the analysis of the previous report; updating annual local government financial data and contrasting that to the associated local financial infrastructure needs in the most recent New York State studies. It also draws upon a new series of interviews with local officials to assess how they are working to provide the best infrastructure possible to their residents.

Issued:

Fiscal Profile City of Glens Falls

Like many other cities, Glens Falls has struggled in recent years to maintain services, avoid large tax increases and balance budgets. The City’s high debt service costs for infrastructure expenditures as well as its subsidization of the Civic Center continue to be a burden. By 2012, Glens Falls had drawn down its available general fund balance to $0.6 million, or 3.7 of percent of expenditures.

Issued:

Growth in Local Sales Tax Collections Slows to 2.4 Percent in First Half of 2014; Long Island and Southern Tier Collections Decline

Although total local sales tax collections have grown each quarter since the end of the 2008-2009 recession, the rate of this growth has shown a downward overall trend. [read county-by-city data - pdf]

Issued:

Fiscal Profile City of Albany

Albany had no available general fund balance between 2002 and 2006. Subsequently, the City’s available balance grew to a high of $19.8 million in 2008 before declining in the wake of the 2007-09 recession. Standard and Poor’s Rating Services rates the City of Albany’s general obligation debt at AA-, at the low end of its second-highest rating category. The City has formally applied to the Governor’s Financial Restructuring Board for Local Governments for assistance and has been accepted by the Board.

Issued:

Fiscal Profile City of Middletown

Between 2007 and 2012, the City’s available fund balance increased by 82 percent, from $3.8 million to $7.0 million in 2012. In 2012, Moody’s warned that rising employee benefit costs could put upward pressure on expenditures. Also, the State cap on growth in the property tax levy could affect the City’s ability to continue to balance its budget by increasing the property tax.

Issued:

Annual Performance Report on New York State's Industrial Development Agencies - Fiscal Year Ending 2012

Often, the required reports that industrial development agencies (IDAs) submit to OSC and other agencies are incomplete and inconsistent. Recent audits by OSC have found a lack of documented cost-benefit analysis, lack of recapture clauses in many project agreements and insufficient tracking of projects and their incentives.

Issued:

Fiscal Profile City of Plattsburgh

The City of Plattsburgh has strong financial operations marked by operating surpluses in 2010 and 2011, modestly sized but growing and diverse tax base and healthy reserve levels. However, Plattsburgh’s high proportion of tax-exempt properties, weak socioeconomic measures due to a large student population and high debt burden are possible threats to the City’s financial condition.

Issued:

Local Sales Tax Collections Increase by 5.2 Percent in 2013; New York City and Long Island Have Strongest Growth

Sales tax is a major revenue source for New York City and the 57 counties. The strongest growth for 2013 was in the Long Island region Some of the rapid sales tax growth seen there and in New York City was due to the rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Sandy.

Issued:

Fiscal Stress Monitoring Summary Results: Common Themes for Villages

This report summarizes findings from the Fiscal Stress Monitoring System using 2013 data for villages with fiscal years ending in February through May. Statewide, 3 percent of villages are experiencing fiscal stress. Downstate villages are more likely than upstate villages to experience fiscal stress. The report notes that some of the environmental factors thought to drive fiscal stress differ between downstate and upstate villages.

Issued:

Fiscal Stress Monitoring Summary Results: Common Themes for School Districts Fiscal Year 2013

This report summarizes findings from the first set of fiscal stress scores to be released for school districts. Statewide, 12.9 percent of school districts are in some level of fiscal stress. Within the report, common fiscal and environmental factors are highlighted along with differences for school districts of varying need/resource capacity.

Issued:

Revenue Challenges Facing School Districts

Between a tax levy limit that restricts local funding, State and federal aid cuts and a lack of other sources of funding, schools are facing fiscal challenges that are not likely to dissipate in the short term.

Issued:

Fiscal Profile City of Buffalo

Like many other "Rust Belt" cities, Buffalo suffered a decline as transportation patterns shifted and manufacturing facilities shut down. However, Buffalo still benefits from its location on the Canadian border and the City, with State and private sector support, has recently made significant efforts to promote new development.

Issued:

Fiscal Profile City of Rye

Rye has strong public and private services, including an excellent school system, a vital retail shopping sector and recreational facilities that include parks, beaches, golf and yacht clubs, and nature centers.

Issued:

Fiscal Profile City of White Plains

The full value of property in White Plains dropped by 29 percent between 2008 and 2013, after more than doubling from 2002 to 2008. While cities statewide show slight recovery, White Plains may find dealing with the loss of so much property value a challenge in the future.

Issued:

Property Tax Exemptions in New York State

In 2012, the full market value of all real property in New York State was estimated at $2.5 trillion dollars with about $826 billion exempt from one or more types of taxes. This report explores what tax exemptions are, where they are most prevalent, and what local governments may do to minimize their impact. 

Issued:

Fiscal Stress Monitoring Summary Results: Common Themes for Local Governments with Fiscal Years Ending December 31, 2012

This report summarizes the findings for all of the calendar year-based local governments which have been scored to date, focusing on common themes and statewide trends.1

Issued:

Fiscal Profile Town of Colonie

Despite its strong tax base, the Town of Colonie has struggled financially in the past decade. However, between a series of property tax increases, including a one-time tax in 2009, and an arrangement to have a private contractor operate the Town’s landfill, Colonie experienced a stronger financial position at the end of 2011 than it had seen since 2002.

Issued:

Local Sales Tax Collections Up 5.7 Percent in First Half of 2013; Growth Concentrated Downstate

Local Sales Tax Collections Up 5.7 Percent in First Half of 2013; Growth Concentrated Downstate

Issued:

Fiscal Profile City of Binghamton

The decline in manufacturing has contributed to the City of Binghamton’s high rates of unemployment and poverty compared to statewide averages. The City must also contend with constraints upon its ability to raise revenues.

Issued:

Fiscal Stress Drivers and Coping Strategies

Many of New York’s local governments are still struggling with the effects of the recent recession. The following report takes a look at how some of the drivers of fiscal stress have affected counties, cities, towns, and villages.

Issued:

Fiscal Profile City of Watertown

The City has paid down a significant amount of debt. This, along with the City’s substantial fund balance and a large tax margin, leave Watertown well positioned to cope with current and future fiscal challenges.

Issued:

Fiscal Profile City of Elmira

The City of Elmira has taken measures to control expenditures through management efficiencies, while still recognizing the importance of investment in infrastructure and economic development initiatives.

Issued:

Annual Performance Report on New York State's Industrial Development Agencies - Fiscal Year Ending 2011

IDAs can assist ailing municipalities by encouraging the creation of new businesses or the retention of existing businesses. However, it is vitally important that the granting of tax exemptions for a project will generate an economic benefit in the form of well-paying jobs and/or future new revenues for local governments. In short, incentives should be coupled with performance. 2011 Regional IDA Statistics [pdf] | 2011 Regional IDA Statistics - Jobs Created [pdf] | Economic Development Regions of NYS [pdf] | IDA Projects in 2011 [xlsx]

Issued:

Fiscal Profile City of Rochester

The City of Rochester projects large and growing budget gaps in its 2013-14 through 2017-18 fiscal years. Absent significant spending cuts or increasing revenues, the gaps could cause the City to exhaust its available fund balance within the next two fiscal years.

Issued:

Fiscal Profile City of Yonkers

By several measures, Yonkers is better off than many other cities in the State. Despite these advantages, the City has been challenged by significant structural budget gaps and, by the end of its 2011 fiscal year, the City had essentially depleted its general fund reserves.

Issued:

Fiscal Profile City of Syracuse

The City of Syracuse faces many of the same challenges as other upstate cities. However, a larger than average percentage of its property tax base is either exempt or delinquent and growing fixed costs in the budgets of the City and the dependent school district have created chronic budget gaps.

Issued:

Local Sales Tax Collections Increase by 3.3 Percent in 2012 Signaling Slower Economic Growth in New York

Sluggish growth in sales tax revenues adds additional pressure to already strained county budgets and to the budgets of other local governments that receive sales tax revenues through sharing agreements. | [read county-by-county data - pdf]

Issued:

Fiscal Profile City of Gloversville

Gloversville faces significant fiscal challenges as it has nearly exhausted its constitutional taxing limit, severely limiting its flexibility to address unforeseen expenses and make ongoing infrastructure investments.

Issued:

Fiscal Profile City of Utica

Utica has been in fiscal decline in recent years, relying on non-recurring revenues to fill budget gaps. Its new mayor has vowed to work with the City Council and OSC to ensure that the City remains in control of its own financial future.

Issued:

Financial Challenges Facing Local Governments: Federal and State Aid Shrink as a Share of Revenues

From 2001 to 2011, total federal and state aid combined, grew at an average rate of 2.2 percent annually, slower than the rate of inflation (2.4 percent).

Issued:

Growing Cracks in the Foundation: Local Governments are Losing Ground on Addressing Vital Infrastructure Needs

Local governments’ infrastructure needs are substantial and growing, while their ability to maintain their investments in capital programs is increasingly constrained. State policy changes could help reverse this trend..

Issued:

Fiscal Profile City of Niagara Falls

Just as Niagara Falls seemed to be making headway in its financial struggles, a dispute between the Seneca Nation and the State of New York has resulted in the City losing as much as $60 million in revenue. The City’s 2013 executive budget proposal called for significant layoffs, program cutbacks, and property tax increases.

Issued:

Fiscal Profile City of Salamanca

Salamanca unexpectedly lost revenues from the Seneca Allegany Casino due to a dispute between the Seneca Nation and New York State over exclusive gaming rights. Although Salamanca aggressively responded to this revenue crisis, the City could run out of cash before the fiscal year ends on March 31, 2013.

Issued:

New York Cities: An Economic and Fiscal Analysis 1980 – 2010

This report seeks to inform that debate by examining the economic and fiscal histories of these other cities between 1980 and 2010, a period characterized by divergent trends for different groups of cities in the Empire State.

Issued:

New Fiscal Realities Challenge Local Governments

This report describes the fiscal oversight OSC provides to local governments faced with the serious fiscal challenges of budgeting with fewer resources to fund rising expenditures, all while staying within the recently enacted property tax cap.

Issued:

Excess Funds in Employee Benefit Accrued Liability Reserves (EBALR) - Report to the New York State Legislature

School districts can use EBALR moneys to make cash payments to employees for accrued leave time due to them when they leave school district employment. OSC certified the excess EBALR funds that school districts had reserved, but could not legally use, so district officials could put these moneys to productive use to pay for operating costs. 

Issued:

Annual Performance Report on New York State's Industrial Development Agencies - Fiscal Year Ending 2010

In 2010, the 114 active IDAs located throughout the State supported 4,444 projects and provided total tax exemptions of nearly $1.3 billion. 

Issued:

School District Tax Levy Limits - Preliminary Findings Point to an Average of 3 Percent Allowable Levy Growth Statewide

This report briefly describes that the average allowable levy growth is 3 percent, rather than the 2 percent voters may be expecting.
All tax cap elements, as reported by school districts to the Office of the State Comptroller, are provided in the accompanying tables. Tax Cap Elements by County [xls] | Tax Cap Elements by Region [xls] | Tax Cap Elements by School [xls]

Issued:

Cleaning It Up: The Foreclosure Problem and the Response of Local Governments

This report briefly describes the impact of the housing market crisis on New York State. The report also highlights the results of a survey by OSC on whether local officials are utilizing the 2009 law requiring foreclosing lenders to maintain vacant or abandoned properties. 

Issued:

Sales Tax Collections Continue to Rebound; Growth Rate Slows

Local sales tax collections grew by $650 million, or 5 percent, from 2010 to 2011, compared to a growth rate of 9.9 percent between 2009 and 2010. However, nearly a third of the 2010 growth was attributable to a sales tax rate increase in New York City. Without this, growth would have been about 7 percent. | [read county-by-county report - pdf]

Issued:

Report on the Private Sales of Bonds: August 13, 2010 through June 30, 2011

Local Finance Law requires the State Comptroller to report on private bond sales conducted by local government entities from the effective date of the Act through June 30, 2011. Because these private sales may be economically beneficial to local governments, OSC recommends that the expiration provision on the statutory private sale cap of $5 million be repealed.

Issued:

2010 Census: Implications for New York State’s Local Governments

New York State’s population increased by 2.1 percent between 2000 and 2010 – the fifth slowest rate of growth among all states nationwide. Gains or losses in population cause a shift in the local tax base, drive adjustments in State and federal revenue allocations, and influence the demand for municipal services and infrastructure.

Issued:

Local Government Information Security: The Cost of Inadequate Protections

Along with technological advances comes the responsibility to protect confidential information adequately so that it cannot be accessed by unauthorized individuals. Failure to do so can come at a considerable financial cost.

Issued:

Local Government Spending on Highways

New York’s 57 counties (excluding New York City), 61 cities, 932 towns, and 556 villages reported spending nearly $2.6 billion to maintain 187,000 highway lane miles in 2009. Highway maintenance is one of the largest categories of expense for local governments, representing 7.6 percent of total local government expenditures.

Issued:

Annual Performance Report on New York State's Industrial Development Agencies - Fiscal Year Ending 2009

Industrial Development Agencies (IDAs) are public benefit corporations created by an act of the State Legislature on behalf of one or more local governments. IDAs are intended to advance the job opportunities, health, general prosperity and economic welfare of the people of the State of New York, and to improve their recreation opportunities, prosperity and standard of living.

Issued:

Reducing the Cost of Tax Assessment Through Shared Services

Real property tax assessment is an important function of local governments. In 2009, New York’s city, county, town and village assessing units spent nearly $132 million and employed roughly 1,350 certified assessors, tax directors and assessment appraisers.

Issued:

Municipal Use of Local Development Corporations and Other Private Entities: Municipal Use of Local Development Corporations and Other Private Entities: Division of Local Government and School Accountability Background, Issues and Recommendations

New York’s counties, cities, towns, and villages frequently utilize local development corporations (LDCs) and other private entities for economic development and other activities. These LDCs and similar private entities are exempt from many of the constitutional and statutory provisions that guide the operations and financial transactions conducted by local governments, increasing the risk of waste, fraud, or abuse of taxpayer dollars or assets. 

Issued:

Staying Ahead of the Curve: School Districts Responding to Fiscal Challenges

This report describes the fiscal challenges facing school districts in New York State. As with other classes of government, school districts have struggled to maintain fiscal balance in the midst of rising costs and declining economic conditions. |  [Regional Profiles]

Issued:

Fiscal Impact of Proposed School Aid Cuts

The 2011-12 Executive Budget proposes a $1.5 billion net cut in State aid to schools, which would result in a 7.3 percent decrease in aid to districts statewide, translating to a 2.9 percent reduction to total general fund budgets. | [read District by District report - pdf]

Issued:

Sales Tax Collections Improve in 2010; County Collections Still Shy of 2008

Local sales tax collections grew by 9.9 percent in 2010 compared to 2009, when sales tax collections declined by 6.0 percent. However, nearly a third of this growth was due to a sales tax rate increase in New York City.

Issued:

Sales Tax Collections Continue to Rebound: Uneven Recovery Across New York

Local sales tax collections, including New York City’s, increased by 10.5 percent during the first three quarters of 2010, compared to a 9.0 percent decline in the same period the year before. However, over a third of this growth is due to sales tax rate increases and the extension of the sales tax to additional items in New York City and Nassau County. Adjusting for these tax increases, the growth in sales tax collections to date in 2010 has been about 6 percent.

Issued:

Taking Affirmative Action to Improve New York State’s MWBE Program

As New York State struggles to meet the challenges of its current fiscal crisis, State policy makers must find ways to encourage growth in various sectors of the State’s economy to ensure the long-term fiscal health of the State. Small businesses – including those owned by minorities and women – are a vital part of that economy.

Issued:

Helping New York Families With the Cost of School Supplies: Is It Time to Go “Back to School” on Back-to-School?

New Yorkers plan to spend up to $192 million for back-to-school supplies this year, with approximately 64 percent of this spending ($123 million) driven by school supply lists from their children’s schools.

Issued:

Report on the Justice Court Fund

The Office of the State Comptroller administers the Justice Court Fund (JCF), a sole custody fund established in 1944 into which the revenues generated by the State’s 1,246 town and village justice courts are deposited.

Issued:

Signs of Recovery? Stabilizing Economy, Tax Increases Help Local Sales Tax Collections

Local sales tax collections, including New York City, increased by 10.6 percent during the first half of 2010 compared to the same period the year before. About half of this growth is due to sales tax rate increases and the extension of the sales tax to additional items.

Issued:

The Changing Manufacturing Sector in Upstate New York: Opportunities for Growth

Mirroring a nationwide trend, New York State has been losing manufacturing jobs over the past several decades. However, the remaining manufacturing base contains some bright spots that demonstrate the potential for an economic resurgence in New York.

Issued:

Upstate/Downstate: New York’s Diverging Housing Market

The meltdown of the national housing market continues to threaten homeowners with foreclosures and reduced home values. Fortunately, New York had fewer subprime mortgages and has fared better than many other states.1 Nonetheless, the decline in home sales and home values is being felt, particularly downstate.

Issued:

Municipal Strategies for Managing Debt Service Costs

As local governments address fiscal challenges posed by stagnant or declining State and local revenues, increased demand for social services and growing fixed costs, local government officials should be mindful of the impact that budget decisions can have on the cost of borrowing. These costs can increase significantly if prudent budget decisions are not made within the context of multiyear capital planning.

Issued:

State Budget Delay: Impact on Local Governments and School Districts

With the 2010-11 State Budget now six weeks late, local governments and school districts are struggling to budget and plan for the upcoming year. Under these circumstances, there is the distinct possibility that aid payments will be delayed and some localities may have to resort to short-term borrowing until they get paid by the State.

Issued:

Annual Performance Report on New York State's Industrial Development Agencies - Fiscal Year Ending 2008

Over the last several years, OSC has increased its oversight of IDA operations through audits and performance reports. The Comptroller also began suspending State tax exemption powers for IDAs that failed to file financial reports. Additionally, the Public Authorities Reform Act that became effective in March 2010, will further enhance IDA transparency by requiring additional reporting on governance, operating structure and financial condition. | [IDA Projects in 2008 - .xls]

Issued:

Local Government Sales Taxes: 2010 Update

The report is an update to a report on the sales tax first issued in 2006, "Local Government Sales Taxes in New York State." The report highlights new issues related to this important revenue source, including the potential impact of the upcoming 2010 Decennial Census on the share of tax revenues flowing to individual governments. 

Issued:

Number of Local Governments in New York

According to Office of the State Comptroller (OSC) records, there are currently 4,172 local government entities in New York. These include over 1,600 county, city, town and village governments, as well as 697 school districts and 872 fire districts. The nearly 1,000 other local government entities include libraries, community colleges, industrial development agencies and consolidated health districts, among others.

Issued:

New York’s Dairy Industry in Crisis

New York’s dairy farms are a vital part of the upstate economy. Dairy industry losses in local communities have a ripple effect throughout their economies, negatively impacting local businesses that provide supplies or services to dairy farms, and the property and sales tax base.

Issued:

County Sales Tax: 2009 Collections and Implications for 2010

County sales tax collections (not including New York City) declined by 5.9 percent in 2009 compared to 2008. Fifty-three of 57 counties had sales tax declines. | [view County Sales Tax Collections 2007-2009 - Including New York City - pdf]

Issued:

Chokepoints: New York’s Deteriorating Bridges

The recent closure of the Lake Champlain Bridge in Essex County (also known as the Crown Point Bridge) highlights the importance of New York's bridges to the regional economies in which they are located. Currently, there are 93 bridges in use in New York State with a safety rating at or below that given to the Lake Champlain Bridge prior to its closure. | [view bridges in use with a safety rating at or below 3.375 - pdf]

Issued:

School Districts and the Stimulus “Cliff”

School districts across New York state, including New York City, face a potential funding gap of at least $2 billion when the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding runs out in 2011-12 unless federal aid is renewed or replaced by State aid. | [view a district-by-district breakdown of ARRA funding - .xls]

Issued:

Shared Services Among New York’s Local Governments Best Practices and Tips for Success

The report reinforces the importance of cooperation and consolidation in achieving local cost efficiencies, especially during these times of fiscal uncertainty. The report also provides tips to local officials interested in exploring greater degrees of cooperation with other local governments, promotes further exploration of service delivery on a regional basis and lists many resources available on these topics. 

Issued:

“Cash for Clunkers” Helps, but New York Local Sales Tax Collections Still Declining

Overall, county sales tax collections (excluding New York City) continued to fall during the third quarter of 2009 (July-September), declining by 7.9 percent, although collections at New York’s automobile dealerships actually increased compared to the same quarter in 2008, suggesting that the Car Allowance Rebate System (also called “Cash for Clunkers”) moderated the decline. | [County Sales Tax Distributions - pdf]

Issued:

Cracks in the Foundation: Local Government Infrastructure and Capital Planning Needs

This report analyzes historical trends in local capital spending and the current condition of our local infrastructure. It suggests some important steps that the State and local governments need to take to improve capital planning within New York. Finally, it suggests some policy options that could help sustain investment in the State’s infrastructure and encourage more coordinated, regional approaches to investment.

Issued:

Sales Tax Declines Through July 2009

Local sales tax collections for all of New York State, including New York City, declined by 8.9 percent, or $640 million, over the first seven months of 2009 compared to the same period the year before.

Issued:

Cost–Saving and Cost–Containment Strategies for New York State’s Local Governments

This report provides a number of ideas and explains efforts undertaken by various municipal officials or identified through audits conducted by OSC that are applicable to most local governments, and that address costs that are under local control.

Issued:

Annual Performance Report on New York State's Industrial Development Agencies - Fiscal Year Ending 2007

In 2007, nearly $61 billion in total project amounts were reported for all Industrial Development Agencies (IDAs) statewide.

Issued:

Meltdown: The Housing Crisis and its Impact on New York State's Local Governments

Compared with other states, particularly those in the South and West, significantly fewer subprime loans were issued in New York, although there are areas within the State where subprime mortgages were utilized more frequently. However, the number of home foreclosures in New York is increasing as more homeowners are faced with mortgages of all types that they can no longer afford.

Issued:

The Credit Crunch: Implications for Local Government Short–Term Debt

The current global financial market crisis could have serious implications for New York’s local governments if access to the credit markets remains constrained. While many long-term implications for local government finances may occur as a result of the broader deterioration in the economy, the credit situation has produced a more immediate impact on liquidity – the ability of local governments to finance their short-term capital operations and cash flow needs. Local governments who are dependent on short-term debt for these purposes could face continued risks.

Issued:

Property Tax Caps: Background and Trends

This report examines some of the various options proposed to reduce local property tax growth.

Issued:

New York State County Sales Tax Collections by Region

Sales taxes are an important source of revenue for New York State's local governments. This revenue stream has helped local governments cope with the rising cost of providing services and mitigate property tax increases. Sales tax revenues now exceed the real property tax as the largest revenue source for counties.

Issued:

Green Best Practices: How Local Governments can Reduce Energy Cost and Minimize Impact on Global Climate Change

Since the cost of electricity represents a considerable burden to local governments and their taxpayers, this report focuses on initiatives that reduce electric bills and the consumption of electricity overall, as well as the consumption of electricity generated through traditional methods.

Issued:

Performance of Industrial Development Agencies

This report provides an overview of financial and employment trends of the 116 active Industrial Development Agencies (IDAs) in New York State.

Issued:

21st Century State Aid Formulas: Revenue Sharing

As previous reports by the Office of the State Comptroller have pointed out, the terms city, town and village have more to do with history than they do with presentday governmental function.2 This report looks at urban villages as one type of municipal government that has been impacted by these historic designations.

Issued:

Layers of Debt: Trends and Implications for New York’s Local Governments

New York State and its local governments maintain an extensive infrastructure critical to the economy, including roads, bridges, educational facilities, water and sewer systems and medical facilities. Most of this capital investment is financed through the issuance of long term debt. Investment in such infrastructure maintains and improves the vitality and economic well being of our communities. However, when governments rely excessively on debt, especially to pay for current operating costs, the long term costs of supporting the debt will impact current as well as future operating budgets by limiting financial flexibility and the ability to finance essential capital projects in the future.

Issued:

Financial Report on School Districts - Fiscal Years Ended 2005

This report provides an overview of their finances, including data for School Districts fiscal years ending in 2004 and 2005.

Issued:

Financial Report on Fire Districts- Fiscal Years Ended 2005

This report provides an overview of their finances, including data for Fire Districts fiscal years ending in 2004 and 2005.

Issued:

Financial Report on Villages - Fiscal Years Ended 2005

This report provides an overview of their finances, including data for Villages fiscal years ending in 2004 and 2005.

Issued:

Financial Report on Cities - Fiscal Years Ended 2005

This report provides an overview of their finances, including data for city fiscal years ending in 2004 and 2005.

Issued:

Decision 2007: Counties and the Medicaid Choice

Under legislation passed in 2005, which established a cap on local Medicaid costs, counties needed to decide by September 2007 to either keep the Medicaid cap or exchange a percentage of their sales tax revenues.

Issued:

Financial Report on Counties- Fiscal Years Ended 2005

This report provides an overview of their finances, including data for county fiscal years ending in 2004 and 2005.

Issued:

Financial Report on Towns - Fiscal Years Ended 2005

This report provides an overview of their finances, including data for Towns fiscal years ending in 2004 and 2005.

Issued:

Town Special Districts in New York: Background, Trends and Issues

The purpose of this report is to help shed light on how town special improvement districts are structured, how they operate, and what fiscal burden they impose on property owners. 

Issued:

Fiscal Challenges Ahead for New York’s Cities

This research brief analyzed multiyear financial plans submitted by cities under a new State requirement. The Comptroller's analysis looks at 48 of these plans, excluding New York City. The report notes that quality of these plans varied greatly and urges the State to adopt a formal review and approval process of the plans, as well as more training for city officials. 

Issued:

Outdated Municipal Structures

This study presents an analysis of our municipalities—cities, towns and villages—including a statistical regrouping that suggests what a modern classification system might look like if we started from scratch today, based on current conditions.

Issued:

Industrial Development Agencies in New York State: Background, Issues and Recommendations

This report supplies context for the current policy discussion on Industrial Development Agencies (IDAs), details major process and accountability issues, describes efforts by the Office of the State Comptroller (OSC) to improve reporting quality and provides a summary of statistical and financial information from 2004 IDA annual reports.

Issued:

Property Taxes in New York State

This research brief summarizes issues associated with the property tax, provides an overview of recent trends and analyzes the tax burden across regions and types of local government.

Issued:

Analysis of Fiscal Stress in New York State's Cities

This research brief measures fiscal stress in cities and includes an overall fiscal profile of each city in the State (except New York City). Of the 61 cities examined, 13 exhibited one or more indicators of severe fiscal stress. The most severely affected cities exhibited stress across multiple factors. Many cities appear to be on the verge of more widespread fiscal difficulties. 

Issued:

County Medicaid Costs: UPDATE

Across the State, growing medicaid costs continue to place significant pressure on local fiscal conditions. See related: 2006 County by County data [pdf]

Issued:

Financing Education in New York’s “Big Five” Cities

The “Big Five” cities of New York City, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Yonkers either are, or have recently been, fiscally distressed. This affects their dependent school systems, which already face significant challenges associated with the socio-economic composition of their students and the age of their facilities.

Issued:

County Medicaid Costs

Across the State, growing Medicaid costs continue to place significant pressure on local fiscal conditions. With most counties already seeking or receiving State legislative approval to increase their sales tax rates to 4 percent or more, and some dangerously close to exhausting their property tax margins, counties are being challenged to effectively deal with rising Medicaid costs.

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Revenue Sharing in New York State

Unrestricted aid to local governments – known as revenue sharing – is State aid that can be used for any local government purpose. The intended goal is to redistribute tax dollars broadly to municipalities which do not have the tax base or taxing authority to generate this revenue on their own.

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Population Trends in New York State's Cities

This research brief— focusing mainly on demographic trends—is the first of a series that will examine major issues facing local governments in New York State.

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Smart Growth in New York State: A Discussion Paper

This paper is intended to help stimulate a vigorous debate on smart growth in New York State by providing a general background and helping to define major issues. New York has a unique urban and natural heritage, and a rich diversity of communities, many of which need to be brought back to a healthy condition. These resources need to be conserved and developed wisely, in an economically sustainable and environmentally sound manner.

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Intermunicipal Cooperation and Consolidation - Exploring Opportunities for Savings and Improved Service Delivery

This report seeks to accomplish four important tasks:

• Reviews pertinent policy issues

• Assesses current activity levels in New York State 

• Offers strategies for collaboration

• Proposes fiscally responsible measures

Finally, the report offers several policy recommendations intended to further enable local government collaboration.

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