New York’s new plan to help financially distressed communities drew praise on Wednesday from Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster.
A day after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that he had reached an agreement with lawmakers in Albany to create a Financial Restructuring Board for Local Governments, Dyster issued a statement saying the plan represents a “comprehensive response” to some of the most pressing issues affecting local government finances, including those in the Falls.
“What works for Niagara Falls may not work for the next city or town, but the governor’s reforms will allow us to craft lasting solutions that are tailored to our own specific needs,” Dyster said.
Through the creation of the Financial Restructuring Board, state officials hope to help municipalities experiencing financial difficulties to better manage their affairs. The legislation includes an alternative binding arbitration process that municipalities and unions could voluntarily opt for to resolve contract issues in an expedited process.
The legislation will establish a new, 10-member Financial Restructuring Board that would be available year round to offer assistance to eligible localities. Any locality, not including New York City, deemed a fiscally eligible municipality by the board would be eligible to request review by and assistance from the board which can provide awards of up to $5 million per municipality through the Local Government Performance Efficiency Program, which makes up to $80 million in total available this year.
The board would also serve as an alternative arbitration panel to the binding arbitration process for police, fire, or deputy sheriff unions, if the municipalities and unions agree. The board would render an arbitration ruling within six months.
A local government would be deemed a fiscally eligible municipality for arbitration provided its average full value property tax rate is above the 75th percentile for all municipalities statewide, as averaged over the most recent five fiscal years, or its five year average general fund balance equals less than five percent of its budget, and the government has received certification from the state comptroller verifying total fund balance availability.