Despite recently naming Colonie as one of the most fiscally stressed municipalities in the state, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has released an updated report saying the town has improved its financial situation significantly in the recent years.
DiNapoli’s office released a profile on Colonie this past week, shedding light on some of the fiscal stresses the municipality has been facing and improvements it’s making.
“Colonie is an example of a town that is currently fiscally stressed, but is moving in the right direction,” said Brian Butry, a spokesman for DiNapoli. “The profile went into a little more depth explaining how Colonie got into the position it’s in, and how the town is moving out of the fiscal stress.”
In June, DiNapoli released fiscal stress stores of the state’s 1,043 counties, towns, cities and villages. Colonie was one of six areas rated as being the most stressed using a new Fiscal Stress Monitoring System that looked at 23 financial and environmental indicators.
The new fiscal profile of the town looks at Colonie’s budgetary process and notes the deficit that occurred. DiNapoli concluded that problems from 2008 have been addressed.
Town Supervisor Paula Mahan said the town was “financially devastated” when she entered office in 2008 and now the administration is in its sixth year of a 10-year plan toward recovery.
“We have been meeting with the comptroller since 2008, since I got here. The comptroller’s office had extended invitations to people and any municipalities that have financial challenges,” Mahan said. “We do have a lot of positive things going on in the Town of Colonie financially.”
One aspect that contributed to Colonie’s distressed rating was the town’s low fund balance. The monitoring system rates factors like fund balance as the most heavily weighted, at 50 percent of the total score. he town’s $21 million deficit in 2008, Mahan said she’s focused on eliminating the $21 million deficit before tackling building up reserves. Handing over operation of the town landfill to a private waste management helped eliminated the deficit, which DiNapoli highlighted in his new profile as a positive improvement.
The town finished 2011 with a $700,000 fund balance, the first positive fund balance since 2005, Mahan said. This past month, the administration learned that in 2012, the town now has a $1.46 million fund balance.
“That was very good news for us because the analysis that the comptroller’s office did focused on fund balance,” Mahan said. “We were very pleased that our fund balance increased.”
DiNapoli also looked at demographic and environmental factors that are working in the town’s favor, including the town’s revenue growing 3.6 percent on average annually from 2002 through 2012. The report also highlighted the fact Colonie’s population grew by 18 percent in the past 30 years and less than 10 percent of the children in the town were living in poverty in 2011.
“Supervisor Mahan is aware of the challenges facing her town and has made difficult, but necessary financial decisions to align spending with revenues and eliminate budget deficits,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “Careful budget planning and an honest conversation about the numbers will continue to be vital to turning around the town’s finances.”
With an election approaching, Mahan’s GOP opponent Todd Drake seized on the town’s fiscal situation to argue “the people of Colonie deserve better.”
“The fact is the Mahan administration’s use of fiscal one-shot gimmicks – like her landfill deal that promised to eliminate the deficit – and her overall mismanagement of town finances, has resulted in a failure to eliminate $2.5 million in new debt and Colonie being placed on a list of communities in ‘significant fiscal stress’ and that’s simply unacceptable,” Drake said in a statement.
To view the new fiscal profile, visit spotlightnews.com.