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June 1, 2013

 

DiNapoli: Elmira Showing Signs of Progress

Unemployment, Poverty Remain High

The city of Elmira’s finances have improved in recent years due to higher rates of revenue growth and a concerted effort to control spending, according to a fiscal profile report issued today by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. The city, however, remains challenged by unemployment and poverty.

“Elmira is on better financial footing than most upstate cities,” said DiNapoli. “Mayor Skidmore and city officials are budgeting wisely and actively participating in regional shared service programs. By implementing these types of sound fiscal strategies, Elmira should be able to continue to pay off its debt and maintain a rainy day fund for unforeseen expenses while investing in necessary infrastructure and economic development initiatives. Elmira has stepped up and faced today’s tough fiscal realities, but these challenges continue and require constant vigilance.”

“It has been a long and arduous climb for the city of Elmira to reach a position of fiscal responsibility and health,” said Elmira Mayor Susan Skidmore. “Unfortunately, as our revenue streams close and operating costs continue to climb, Elmira’s fiscal stress could increase and we may find ourselves in the same predicament as many other cities. That is why we remain committed to controlling spending and identifying shared services opportunities with neighboring municipalities. Comptroller DiNapoli’s report will assist our efforts as we work to keep the city’s finances as healthy as possible.”

DiNapoli’s report found the city’s revenue grew 4.1 percent on average annually from 2001 through 2011, compared to 3.4 percent for all New York cities during the same time frame. Meanwhile, the city’s expenditures only increased 3.1 percent on average annually during the decade, compared to a growth rate of 3.4 percent for all cities.

The higher rate of revenue growth and slower rate of spending have allowed Elmira to rebuild a healthy fund balance. Specifically, the city’s fund balance grew, from a deficit of nearly $2.4 million in 2006 to a balance of nearly $4 million in 2011.

Elmira’s total debt is $36.3 million, which is $1,243 per person compared to $1,369 per person for all New York cities. Moody’s Investor Services confirmed the city’s bond rating of A2 earlier this year, a marked improvement from its 2008 Baa3 rating and reflection of the city’s improved fiscal position.

The report also noted a number of warning signs for the city. For example, the unemployment rate of 10.7 percent is significantly higher than the statewide rate of 8.5 percent. The city’s median household income of $29,488 is about half of the statewide median of $56,951. In addition, more than 26 percent of families in Elmira are living in poverty.

DiNapoli’s report also highlighted:

  • The city’s population has declined 41 percent since 1950;
  • Median home values in Elmira ($65,300) are significantly lower than the median city home value ($99,700);
  • Elmira ranks in the top third of all cities in New York for total property that is tax exempt; and
  • More than 41 percent of the wholly tax exempt properties in Chemung County are located in the city of Elmira.

In the coming months, DiNapoli will issue additional fiscal profiles on select cities across the state to further inform officials and citizens on some of the unique environmental and systemic pressures facing New York’s cities. As part of this effort, DiNapoli will also release in-depth reports on some of the issues that contribute to the financial pressures on local governments.

DiNapoli has implemented an early warning monitoring system that will identify local governments facing significant fiscal stress and present a realistic picture of their financial condition and identify the economic and budgetary challenges they face. This system will make available an objective analysis to assist taxpayers in understanding and participating in local financial decision-making.

For a copy of the report visit: http://www.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/pubs/fiscalprofiles/elmira.pdf

For more detailed information about Comptroller DiNapoli’s fiscal stress monitoring system and to view reports related to local government fiscal stress visit:
www.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/fiscalmonitoring/index.htm

For access to state and local government spending and more than 60,000 state contracts, visit http://www.openbooknewyork.com/. The easy-to-use website was created by Comptroller DiNapoli to promote openness in government and provide taxpayers with better access to the financial workings of government.



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