East Ramapo School District on Comptroller’s radar

BY KATHY KAHN

With a full house eager to hear how the state’s finances are being managed—and also just as eager to hear how New York is spending taxpayer dollars—Comptroller Tom DiNapoli spoke for 45 minutes March 19 at  luncheon held by the Rockland Business Association at The Crowne Plaza in Suffern.

Proposed monitoring board for East Ramapo School District

After giving an overview of what his office does in terms of auditing every municipality in the state, as well as their various departments, making sure they are spending taxpayer dollars wisely and not letting any money slip between the cracks, DiNapoli has the task of making recommendations that don’t sit well with some: East Ramapo School District may soon have a monitor to oversee their actions and spending, something its elected school board members are not happy about.

“East Ramapo used to be one of the best districts in Rockland,” said RBA President Al Samuels. Now, it is in the top three of the most fiscally stressed districts in the state at 86.7 percent, a situation DiNapoli’s office can physically monitor and make changes to improve the current ruinous financial state the district is in.  “It’s not something we like to do, but in certain situations, a monitor is required, and this is one of them.”

Thruway Authority: Open your books and let taxpayers have a look

Another area of concern for DiNapoli is the multi-billion dollar windfall New York received in settlement costs from Wall Street. “From my point of view, we can’t look at this as surplus. It’s a one-time windfall. We should not function thinking in will continue to keep happening. We need to use it for one time expenses.”

One of those one-time expenses is the new Tappan Zee Bridge, where construction is starting to pick up as the weather warms. Gov. Cuomo proposed taking $1.3 billion of the windfall money and using it to finance the bridge.  DiNapoli urged caution.

“The Thruway Authority needs to create a financing plan and let us know what it will cost. Let the public know what the impact will be,” said DiNapoli. “It continues to be a source of concern. There are some new people in place—we hoping for more transparency…the wording of the Capital Projects fund needs to tighten up the ‘back door.’ We need full details of financing.”

Empire State Development Corporation: Are taxpayer dollars really creating jobs?

A report released in mid-March questioning the expenditures and ultimate outcomes of the jobs ESDC claims to create using taxpayer dollars to support new and existing companies has Cuomo’s teeth on edge.

According to DiNapoli’s findings, ESDC’s debt outstanding totaled more than $10.7 billion for its fiscal year ended March 31, 2014 and increased 20 percent compared to 2013. Almost that entire total is State-supported debt, or borrowing conducted on behalf of the State. ESDC is one of the primary vehicles for such “backdoor borrowing,” which is conducted on behalf of the State with no requirement for voter approval.

Cuomo has asked the Legislature to grant the ESDC, created in 2008, a ten-year extension—with some reforms– and strongly disagrees with the comptroller’s findings.

Comptroller makes recommendations on proposed 2015-2016 New York State fiscal budget

On in March, 2015, the Comptroller’s office released its executive summary Executive Budget Amendments to the $141.8 million budget proposed by Gov. Cuomo on January 21.

Copies of the Comptroller’s reports can be found on www.osc.state.ny.us  and the public can sign up for its weekly newsletter on the site.