City doesn’t qualify for control board
Recently, some residents questioned whether a control board is the answer to the city of Dunkirk’s budgetary woes. According to one official, that is not an option.
“Several meetings ago I was asked by a rather large group of individuals to look into a control board for the city and what the difference was from the financial restructuring board we currently have and a control board,” Fourth Ward Councilwoman Stacy Szukala said during the most recent Common Council meeting.
The first Financial Control Board in New York state was created in 1975 to turn around the economic crisis in New York City. Since then financial control boards have been appointed by the state in Yonkers, Troy, Buffalo, Erie County, and most recently, Nassau County.While authority granted to a control board usually depends on a municipality’s needs, powers usually include reviewing and making recommendations on the operation, management and efficiency of the municipality; issuing bonds; consulting during the budget process with the right to reject a budget or required future financial plan; and commenting on proposed borrowing and collective bargaining agreements.
Szukala’s said this option is not available to the city.
“After some research and some help from the city attorney, the information that was given to me, which can also be found on the (state’s) website, is that the city of Dunkirk does not qualify for a control board,” she explained. “The eligibility requirements for New York state control board to take over a municipality include, the tax rate must be in the top 33 percent of the cities in the state. Dunkirk does not meet that criteria as we are number 27 out of 74 cities with a tax rate of $42.90 per thousand.
“And a municipality’s fund balance must be less than 5 percent of the total budget. The city’s fund balance is as follows, general fund 35.6 percent, water fund fund balance 3.16 percent, wastewater treatment fund balance .02 percent.
“So, at this time those people who are questioning why we can’t get a control board to help us out financially and ‘clean house’ so to speak, that’s why. We do not qualify, so hopefully that answers everybody’s questions. If it does not, please feel free to call me and I’ll explain it to you at a later time.”
Last fall, Mayor Willie Rosas pushed for the city to become involved with the Financial Restructuring Board for Local Governments. The Council passed the required resolution and with Rosas’ stamp of approval, the city had its first meeting with board members in July.
According to frb.ny.gov, the board “recommendations to that municipality on improving its fiscal stability, management, and the delivery of public services. In addition, the Board could offer grants and/or loans of up to $5 million through the Local Government Performance and Efficiency Program for undertaking certain recommendations.”
In addition the board can serve as an alternate arbitration panel for binding arbitration with a municipal union.
So far, the city has not received formal recommendations.