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The Telegram
  • Some area municipalities on cusp of 'fiscal stress'

  • No local governments have yet made it onto the New York State Comptroller's Office list of fiscally stressed municipalities.
    But that doesn't mean they aren't facing troubles.
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  • No local governments have yet made it onto the New York State Comptroller's Office list of fiscally stressed municipalities.
    But that doesn't mean they aren't facing troubles.
    Three governments in Oneida and Herkimer Counties are within jumping distance of the designation "Susceptible to Fiscal Stress," according to data on the Comptroller's Office website.
    Those are:
    The town Trenton
    Oneida County
    The city of Little Falls
    The complex scoring system the state used to determine stress levels looked at the amount in the municipality's savings account, whether the government was running deficit budgets and monthly expenditures compared to cash on hand.
    Trenton ranked highest of the local municipalities, with a total score of 41.3 percent. A score of 45-percent rates a Susceptible to Stress designation. Villages had not yet been analyzed, because many of them have fiscal years that end later than the other governments'.
    Oneida County's score was 38.8 percent, and Little Falls' 37.9 percent.
    By comparison, Monroe County got an 82.1 percent score, the highest in the state. Broome County, which is similar to Oneida County in size, scored a 54.6 percent.
    One change of fortune
    Oneida County's staff pinpointed low reserves and the fact that the county's cash on hand was less than half its average monthly costs in 2012.
    County Executive Anthony Picente said he has been working since taking office in 2007 to reduce costs and build county reserves.
    But, like county executives across the state, he has battled rising costs for pensions, employee healthcare and Medicaid and drops in state and federal funding.
    The price?
    Roads and bridges aren't repaired as frequently, there are longer waiting lists for meals provided to the homebound elderly and daycare funds for low-income mothers have been in jeopardy.
    And in its 2011 budget, the county eliminated 140 positions, including 69 layoffs.
    "Two years ago, we had to dip in and cut positions and reduce spending," Picente said of 2011. "You are always one economic turn or change of fortune away from that."
    Down but not out
    Trenton Supervisor Joseph Smith said he could not argue with the Comptroller's Office figures, but he believes his town is fiscally sound.
    "I don't think we are much different than anyone else," he said.
    The town is seeing increasing costs, from wages to health benefits. Also, he said, half his town budget goes to the Highway Department.
    "You look at a bad winter and that's what sends you over the top," he said.
    Still, according to the Comptroller's Office figures, Trenton has dipped into its savings to balance its budget in each of the past three years.

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