2017 Top 25
State of New York
January 1, 2017
New York

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli's Fiscal Stress Monitoring System (FSMS) provides an objective and transparent fiscal stress assessment annually for 2,300 local governments in the state, using self-reported financial data. Scores and reports published annually give local stakeholders robust tools for decision-making on budgets and service delivery. Interest in this project grew out of the numerous municipal fiscal crises across the country in the late 2000s and concern from New Yorkers that a similar crisis could happen in their municipality or school district. Given their role in overseeing the fiscal affairs of local governments, the Comptroller’s office convened an internal workgroup, with the charge to develop a statewide, objective process to examine local government financial condition without new reporting requirements. After months of research, consulting with experts and constituents, statistical testing and public comment, FSMS was introduced. Prior to implementation, some local officials voiced concerns that rating agency downgrades might result, along with public discord and political grandstanding, leading the FSMS team to work to ease concerns and emphasize the benefits of the program through regular stakeholder meetings, informational webinars, a dedicated webpage, and a self-assessment tool. To date the office has conducted 11 webinars for 1,300 local officials and 36 in-person FSMS trainings for 2,800 local officials. Internally, FSMS has led to more efficient and time-sensitive reviews of municipal reporting, and more robust verification. The communication process evolved, enhancing the way the Comptroller’s office communicates with all local officials (even for non-FSMS purposes) to reduce costs and provide more timely information.