Thirteen percent of school districts in New York face some degree of fiscal stress, with a dozen, including the city of Poughkeepsie, having “significant” financial problems, a report today found.
The report from Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli warned that schools are dealing with chronic budget deficits, limited revenue and depleted reserve funds. The problem was most pronounced in upstate schools, particularly in suburban or urban areas, he said.
“School districts in fiscal stress were operating with dangerously low or non-existent fund balances, chronic operating deficits and extremely limited cash on hand,” DiNapoli’s report said.
DiNapoli has been grading the fiscal health of schools and local governments as they seek to rebound from difficult financial times.
The Watervliet school district outside Albany was ranked as having the most fiscal stress in the state based on data from the last school year, which ended June 30.
The Lewiston-Porter and Niagara-Wheatfield school districts in Niagara County were ranked second and third, while the Kiryas Joel district in Orange County ranked fourth.
West Seneca in Erie County ranked sixth and Poughkeepsie ranked seventh. The report didn’t include the largest city districts of Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse or Yonkers.
Of the 674 school districts evaluated for fiscal stress, 87 districts or 12.9 percent were found to be in one of the three stress levels: significant, moderate or susceptible to fiscal stress.
On the list of moderate stress included the Maine-Endwell district in Broome County, the New Rochelle district in Westchester County and the Mount Morris district in Livingston County.
On the susceptible list included Wappingers in Dutchess; the Elmira and Binghamton city schools; the Hendrick Hudson district in Westchester; and the Hilton school district in Monroe County.