Niagara Gazette

May 19, 2013

State fiscal distress plan draws support locally

Staff reports
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Local officials, including Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster, are offering their support for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s new plan to establish a financial restructuring board for distressed local governments. 

Cuomo announced this week that he has submitted a bill to state lawmakers that would an include an alternative binding arbitration process that municipalities and unions could choose to resolve contract issues in an expedited procedure.

In announcing plans to submit his proposal to the Legislature on Friday, Cuomo said it’s time to stop talking about the issue and time to actually do something about it.

“What is the answer going to be?,” he said. “A restructuring plan that is individual for that locality. Albany is different than Syracuse, is different than Buffalo, is different than Jamestown. And you are not going to be able to sit here and say one size fits all. Bring each one in, work with them to come up with a plan.” 

The proposed board would include the state budget director, secretary of state, attorney general, comptroller and one private sector restructuring professional. The budget director would establish standards to determine which local governments qualify as fiscally distressed. Fiscally distressed local governments would be able to request the assistance of the board, and work together to identify a specific restructuring plan.

Cuomo’s office said the 2013-14 state budget includes up to $80 million to assist local governments with reorganization plans. Recommendations of the  board would be binding upon any municipality that accepts funding. Under Cuomo’s proposal, the board may require development of multi-year financial plans, functional consolidation, mergers, shared services, fewer elected officials and other measures.

In addition, Cuomo’s office said the Board would also serve as a binding arbitration panel and provide an alternative to the binding arbitration process for police, fire, or deputy sheriff unions if municipalities and unions agree. The Board would render an arbitration ruling within nmonths.

Cuomo’s proposal drew positive reviews from more than a dozen municipal leaders, including leaders of local counties and cities.

Dyster lauded Cuomo for recognizing the need for “innovative new fiscal tools to address long-term structural problems facing so many upstate municipalities.

“We all know we have tough choices to make, but it is helpful to have new ideas on the table,” Dyster said.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown also offered his support for the proposal, saying he thinks it’s wise to bring top fiscal experts and leaders together to help struggling municipalities come up with ways to keep their fiscal houses in order. 

“The challenges all upstate cities face are difficult and the solutions are not easy, but the Governor has long made it clear that we are in this together,” Brown said. 

with mug of Dyster, Paul Paul Dyster Likes plan's 'new ideas'