A draft State Audit Report, to be released in final form on February 8, 2016, really bitch slaps the City's financial practices. According to the Times Union story:
The city drained its financial reserves to balance the budget, failed to monitor its finances and routinely used money from off-limit funds to pay the bills, according to a draft audit by the state comptroller's office that criticizes city fiscal operations.
"The council adopted budgets for the general fund that were not structurally balanced, but instead the council routinely relied on appropriating significant amounts of reserves to finance operations," the draft audit states.
The city's general fund had operating deficits amounting to $8.6 million from 2012-2015 that it covered by draining $6.4 million from the water fund to close spending gaps, according to the financial study.
The story can be found on Times Union+. If you don't feel like paying, you can usually find the 'for pay' articles in the Times Union and The Record via a google search.
Anywho, the audit covers the last year of the Tutunjian administration and the last three years of the Rosamilia administration.
Mayor Madden, to his credit, appears not to be surprised by the findings. On the other hand, Council President Mantello and Councilman Mark McGrath (D-2) appeared to be alarmed.
We, here at the Troy Polloi, are unfazed by the report (but are putting the blog up for sale before blog values decline). The findings reflect what we, and others, have pointed out time and again. We invite you to collect (or if we have time we might) newspaper reports as well as the Mayor's message to the Council when presenting budgets. There, you will find many of the practices criticized, discussed. In fact, mayors have been more than open about using reserve funds and moving money around to minimize tax hikes and to avoid drastic cuts.
And before you bitch and moan, we are not blaming Harry. He shares the blames as well as past GOP-controlled and Democratic-controlled Councils and, frankly, the voters. While things, overall, are better than they were twenty years ago, its hard not to conclude that we are still weighed down by what occurred before we returned to a mayoral form of government.
The downside to knowing what is wrong is choosing the correct antidote(s). We know why administrations and councils juggle the numbers: they want to avoid tax hikes. They want to avoid tax hikes for political reasons and humanitarian reasons. No one wants people to have to pay more. Ultimately, a combination of tax hikes and cuts are necessary to balance to books and avoid the perennial shell game. How many more tax hikes can the average Troy citizen endure? Not many.
In the long run, the only thing that will restore fiscal health is a Marshall Plan like push for large scale commercial and industrial development to increase the tax base. Success is not guaranteed but it is really the only long-term solution.
There is one other option: flight to the outlying towns. If that begins to occur in meaningful numbers, well...
Happy New Year.