Local Government Publications

Search Audits for reports on municipalities and school districts dating back to 2014.

Cost-Saving Ideas > Claims Auditing/Credit Cards, Payroll/Employee Benefits, Purchasing

January 2016 –

You must provide your employees workers’ compensation coverage as a mandatory benefit. Local governments can get insurance for workers’ compensation in one of four ways:

  • Purchase a policy from a private sector insurance carrier
  • Purchase a policy from the New York State Insurance Fund
  • Become self-insured as authorized by the Workers' Compensation Law
  • Participate in a county self-insurance plan as authorized by the Workers' Compensation Law
Cost-Saving Ideas > Purchasing, Reporting

January 2016 –

To effectively manage your local government’s capital assets, you must develop a long-term plan. The plan should address how you monitor and maintain assets and how much you can spend within your budget.

By developing a structured approach for assessing and funding capital assets, you can help avoid the unexpected, such as sudden road or building closures or cost overruns.

Cost-Saving Ideas > Payroll/Employee Benefits, Purchasing

January 2016 –

As an employer, you should always look for ways to contain health insurance costs without cutting current benefit levels.

Cost-Saving Ideas > General Oversight, Purchasing

January 2016 –

To ensure your fleet operation is cost effective and efficient, you should establish a management policy that each department can monitor for compliance.

Essential to this oversight is keeping good records, such as vehicle daily mileage logs, fuel usage logs, and the cumulative costs of parts, labor and overhead by a vehicle over its life.

Because your municipality’s fleet and usage are unique, use these guidelines to craft an effective fleet management system best suited to your needs.

Cost-Saving Ideas > General Oversight

January 2016 –

The internal auditor:

  • develops a risk assessment and ensures proper internal controls are in place and working;
  • performs an annual update on the risk assessment;
  • tests and evaluates one or more areas of the district’s operations periodically; and
  • prepares reports analyzing risk assessment findings and recommends changes for strengthening internal controls and reducing identified risks.

The internal auditor must report directly to the board.

Cost-Saving Ideas > General Oversight, Payroll/Employee Benefits

January 2016 –

Reducing the cost of employee salaries and benefits by even a small percentage can result in significant savings.

Employee salaries and benefits, including pension benefits, are large expenses for New York's local governments and school districts. These costs represent nearly 57 percent of annual budget expenditures, on average.

Overtime wages can significantly increase personal service1 and pension costs. For example, 8 to 30 percent of wages paid to highway employees in New York State are for overtime.

A written plan to guide the assignment of overtime hours in the most efficient and effective manner can help control overtime costs. When local governments and school districts analyze the factors that lead to overtime, they may be able to reduce or eliminate overtime through the use of alternate work schedules.

Accounting Notices and Bulletins > Reporting

December 2015 –

This bulletin provides updated information on the accounting for aid received from the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS), superseding an earlier bulletin issued by the Office of the State Comptroller for local governments in New York State. This bulletin incorporates threshold changes and updated account codes used for reporting. All previous guidance has been incorporated into this bulletin.
Updated December 2015 (Originally Issued October 1991)

Accounting Notices and Bulletins > Capital Projects, Purchasing, Reporting, Revenues/Cash Management

December 2015 –

This bulletin provides updated information on the accounting for loans received pursuant to the NYS Emergency Services Revolving Loan Account. It incorporates changes in the law and updated account codes used for reporting. All previous guidance has been incorporated into this bulletin.
Updated December 2015 (Originally Issued June 2015)

Accounting Notices and Bulletins > Capital Projects

December 2015 –

This bulletin provides updated information on the accounting for installment purchase contracts, superseding an earlier bulletin issued by the Office of the State Comptroller for local governments in New York State. All previous guidance has been incorporated into this bulletin.
Updated December 2015 (Originally Issued January 1991)

Research Reports > Financial Condition, Revenues/Cash Management

September 2015 –

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.

Research Reports > Fiscal Stress

September 2015 –

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. 

Research Reports > Reporting

August 2015 –

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.

Research Reports > Reporting

July 2015 –

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.

Research Reports > Sales Tax

July 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]

Research Reports > Reporting

June 2015 –

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]

Research Reports > Debt, Fiscal Stress

June 2015 –

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.

Annual Reports > Debt, Reporting

May 2015 –

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.

Accounting Notices and Bulletins > Reporting

May 2015 –

This bulletin provides updated information on pension accounting and reporting, superseding earlier bulletins issued by the Office of the State Comptroller for local government employers in New York State. All applicable previous guidance has been incorporated into this bulletin, as well as corrections to past instructions for expenditure and liability recognition of pension costs in governmental funds.
Updated May 2015 (Originally Issued September 2011)

Research Reports > Debt, Reporting, Revenues/Cash Management

April 2015 –

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. 

Research Reports > Revenues/Cash Management, Sales Tax

March 2015 –

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.