Comptroller: St. Lawrence Co. more stressed out than Franklin

In June, a state comptroller’s report ranked Franklin County as the third-most-stressed municipality of any kind in New York, and the second-most-stressed county. Since then, some other counties have been heard from, bumping Franklin down a few notches.

St. Lawrence County, which previously had not filed the financial information the comptroller had requested, came in as being more stressed than Franklin County, according to an update the comptroller’s office issued Wednesday.

Franklin is now the fifth-most-strained county with a fiscal stress score of 67.5 percent.

St. Lawrence County’s score is 70.8 percent, making it New York’s fourth-most-stressed county and tied for fourth-most-stressed municipality with the Rockland County town of Ramapo. Topping the list are Rockland County (86.7 percent), Monroe County (82.1) and Suffolk County (73.8).

These are among 12 municipalities the comptroller’s office classified as being under “significant fiscal stress,” meaning their scores are over 65 percent. Those between 55 and 65 percent have “moderate fiscal stress” (Saratoga and Albany counties fall under this heading), and those between 45 and 55 percent are “susceptible to fiscal stress” (including the Adirondack towns of Clare, Clifton and Newcomb).

The municipalities on these stress lists share common characteristics such as low fund balances, continued patterns of operating deficits and inadequate cash on hand to pay their bills, according to the comptroller’s office.

“No designation” is the category for municipalities with stress scores under 45 percent. Of these, the highest ranked municipality in the Enterprise’s primary coverage area is Essex County at 22.5 percent, followed by the town of North Elba at 16.3 percent.

These rankings include all but three of New York’s 61 counties. Westchester and Columbia counties are classified as “under review” by the comptroller’s office, and Schuyler County is among 54 municipalities (mostly towns) that have not yet submitted financial information to the comptroller’s office. In the North Country, these “not filed” towns are Ticonderoga, Moriah, Crown Point and Chesterfield in Essex County; Bombay in Franklin County; Morehouse and Inlet in Hamilton County; Rossie and Hermon in St. Lawrence County; and Antwerp in Jefferson County.

Statewide, the report showed that nearly 25 percent of all counties and 11 percent of cities were fiscally stressed, compared to only 2 percent of towns.

“The increased number of municipalities in fiscal stress underscores the seriousness of the challenges facing local governments,” Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said in a press release issued Wednesday. “By shining a light on the financial issues confronting our municipalities, we can jumpstart discussions at the state and local levels about fiscal stress so that corrective actions can be taken.”

Later this year, DiNapoli’s office expects to release a separate scoring list for school districts and those cities and villages whose fiscal years end at various periods throughout the year. The current list only includes those whose fiscal year ends on Dec. 31.