Syracuse is faced with systemic problems that could impact the city’s fiscal condition, according to an audit released today by Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, Gannett’s Haley Viccaro reports.
Syracuse has a strong financial position, rating agencies said, but the number of vacant and tax-exempt properties as well as the low rates of home ownership and a decline in home values could affect their economy.
“Unfortunately, as the economy continues to recover slowly from the financial meltdown of 2008, communities like Syracuse are likely to experience more financial difficulties,” DiNapoli said in a statement.
About half of the city’s property is listed as tax-exempt and 11 percent of homes are vacant, DiNapoli said. Property taxes in Syracuse are 13 percent of the city’s revenue. The average is 26 percent for cities statewide.
Syracuse receives more revenue from sales taxes and fees to pay for municipal services, DiNapoli said. About 25 percent comes from charges for transportation and utility fees and 22 percent comes from sales tax.
Syracuse is the fifth-largest city in New York but has lost about one-third of its population from 1950 to 2010. The city has the second-highest poverty rating of 25.6 percent and an 8.9 percent unemployment rate, DiNapoli said.
“Mayor Miner recognizes the need to be more efficient, more creative and more forward-thinking,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “Since taking office, she has confronted the city’s financial problems but faces an uphill battle in some areas.”
Miner believes their needs to be more solutions for struggling municipalities and is knocking Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s pension-smoothing plan, which she said doesn’t do enough to help local governments.
“I think that’s a democratic process, to have a discussion about policies and if we get into a position where only one person’s views in our party or in our state are allowed, I think the people of the state are going to suffer for that,” Miner said during a phone interview Feb. 14 with Gannett’s Albany Bureau.
DiNapoli’s report showed that during the 2008-09 fiscal year, Syracuse has lost $4.3 million in state aid and has exhausted 53 percent of its debt limit. The city’s general fund balance has decreased by 37 percent from $63 million to $39.5 million since 2008.
DiNapoli also released a report today about Yonkers’ finances.