"Super control board" idea to help struggling municipalities still possible

Sep 10, 2012

New York State continues looking for ways to help local governments on the edge of fiscal collapse.  And, the idea of a "super control board" is still a possibility.

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli won't rule out the concept of super control boards, which would take the reigns of spending from troubled cities or counties, and allow the state to take over their financial operations. The idea would be to have one method of dealing with a municipal crisis, instead of a piecemeal approach to helping governments, which is place now.     

He says right now there are five control boards in place in municipalities which have serious fiscal problems.  He worries about the continued weak economy that continues to leave governments on the edge.

"In the past in New York, when we've done control boards it's like a case by case basis.  Each one is a little different," said DiNapoli. "The question is, if we are going to do more of those in the future, should there be a more standardized approach and strategy.  But New York is a large and unique state and every municipality is somewhat different and it's difficult to come up with a one size fits all strategy."

At the very least, DiNapoli says there needs to be a way for the state to know when a municipality is reaching the breaking point.  Right now he says there are some Hudson Valley municipalities teetering on the edge.

"The city of Newburgh, as far as cities, has had a lot of problems of late.  Some have proposed a control board there; it hasn't happened yet," said DiNapoli. "Rockland County, as a county, has had a lot of issues this past year that haven't been really resolved.  So there are stress points that are out there."

Dinapoli sees the small cities across the state as the most likely to become fiscally stressed.

The comptroller also says, so far, there is no formal proposal of a super control board, but it is a potential option.  Mayors of large cities in upstate New York, including Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, have opposed the idea of a super control board. DiNapoli also noted that the super control board suggestion isn't the only option or answer to the potential crisis.