State Comptroller's office issues review of Utica budget proposal

By WKTV News

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - The Office of the New York State Comptroller has issued their independent review of Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri's budget proposal.

The OSC did the evaluation at the request of city leaders, Senator Joseph Griffo and Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi. It's not an audit and does not make public policy recommendations. It does, however, caution the city on several fronts.

The first warning siren: the state OSC says the city relies too heavily on speculative revenue. At the top of that list is $1.8 million in the budget proposal from the city's UFD-run ambulance service.

The very existence of the service is tied up in court and far from guaranteed, yet is listed as revenue in the budget.

The recommendation of the OSC is to take the potentially perilous projection out of the budget.

While that may be prudent, that is $1.8 million the city will have to come up with elsewhere.

The OSC also warns that the city proposed layoffs could cost it $475,000 in a "SAFER" grant, which requires the city to maintain a certain minimum number of firefighters. In addition, the city could be forced to repay roughly $305,000 in grant money.

The comptroller's office also cautions the city that widespread layoffs could result in increased overtime costs.

Officials with the state comptroller's office say that such evaluations and findings aren't necessarily precursors to a state control board coming in and taking over the city's finances.

The OSC performed similar budget evaluations for four cities this past year: Troy, Newburgh, Glen Cove and Olean. They conducted an additional 16 reviews for municipalities (schools, towns, villages). Currently, there are five active control boards in NY State: Erie County, Buffalo, Nassau County, Troy and NYC.

The OSC review of Utica's budget proposal says that the common council should prepare a plan of action that addresses the recommendations in its review and forward the plan to the comptroller's office within 90 days.

The common council votes on the budget, including their own amendments for sweeping public safety layoffs, Tuesday night.

Click here to read the full, 6 page letter from the State Comptroller's Office to the City of Utica.

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