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Poughkeepsie, NY… Dutchess County Government has submitted its 2016 year end audited financial report to the New York State Comptroller, as required by law. The report, completed by independent auditing firm Drescher & Malecki, demonstrates the continued success of Dutchess County Government to control spending and maximize revenues. Dutchess County’s 2016 general fund revenues totaled $433 million and general fund expenses totaled $423 million for a year end surplus of $10 million in general fund. Additionally, Dutchess County scored a perfect 0% in the New York State Comptroller’s Office recently released Fiscal Stress Monitoring System 2016 scoring updates.
Dutchess County’s 2016 audited general fund balance is $59.9 million, representing almost 14% of general fund revenues. Credit rating agencies monitor fund balance as an important indicator of a government’s creditworthiness and the New York State Comptroller’s Office uses fund balance as an indicator of fiscal stress. Dutchess County Government’s commitment to ensuring a stable fund balance helped secure the County’s enviable AA+ bond rating from Standard & Poor’s, property tax levy reductions for three consecutive years and property tax rate decreases for the past two years.
Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro said, “Over the past several years, we have made tremendous strides in stabilizing and strengthening our county finances. As a result, we have been able to repeatedly reduce taxes for residents and businesses, expand our services and programs and shrink our long term bond debt. We must remain on this successful fiscal path and continue our work to find new efficiencies, share services and deliver excellence to our citizens. I am grateful to the Legislature, county elected officials and our departments for working together for the success of our county.”
The rebuilding of the County’s fund balance over the past several years enabled the establishment of a Taxpayer Protection Fund to ensure tax stability for property taxpayers for the next several budget cycles and a Capital Set Aside fund to reduce indebtedness. The Taxpayer Protection Fund has helped reduce the county portion of residents’ and businesses’ property tax bills with lower property tax levy and rates for the past several years and the Capital Set Aside has enabled the County to reduce its bonds payable by more than 17% over the past year.
Last week, the Office of the New York State Comptroller released its annual Fiscal Stress Scores, with Dutchess County Government scoring a perfect “0%” for fiscal stress reflecting the County’s strong fiscal management and strong financial indicators. NYS Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli developed the Fiscal Stress Monitoring System in 2012 to serve as an “early warning” of fiscal stress to local governments based on financial information and aspects of the external environment. The higher the score, the greater degree of fiscal stress. A score of 44.9% or less indicates a fiscally healthy local government and is not given a fiscal stress designation. Dutchess County scored a perfect 0.0% on the Comptroller’s scale, maintaining the “no designation” classification. The score is a marked improvement from the 2012/2013 score of 41.3%. Dutchess County’s environmental score, which looks at economic factors such unemployment rate, property tax base and job count changes, also improved significantly with a 9.6% score for 2016; down from 28.3% in 2012/13.
Dutchess County Comptroller James Coughlan said, “When you review the year end financial reports over the past several years and compare Dutchess to other counties on the NYS Comptroller’s Fiscal Stress Monitoring System – the results are impressive. Careful scrutiny of expenses, maximizing revenue opportunities, internal control and operating efficiencies, and overall commitment to fiscal stability throughout Dutchess County Government has led to lower property taxes, reduced debt, improved bond rating and better delivery of services for residents. We must remain vigilant in this commitment as there are always unknown financial variables, such as shifting federal and state mandates, that can dramatically change the fiscal landscape. Following best fiscal practices, we can be prepared for sudden changes and continue to ensure stability.”
Financial guidance regarding fund balance reserves has evolved following the Great Recession. Previous guidance recommended fund balance reserves between 5-10% of budget. Today, the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA), which promotes excellence in state and local government financial management, recommends “…. general-purpose governments, regardless of size, maintain unrestricted budgetary fund balance in their general fund of no less than two months of regular general fund operating revenues or regular general fund operating expenditures.” For Dutchess County, this amounts to approximately $70-72 million, based on the 2016 audited financial statements. Dutchess County is transitioning from the previous guidance toward this new recommendation by maintaining one to two months of general fund operating expenditures in unrestricted general fund balance to ensure financial stability.
Dutchess County Legislator Don Sagliano, Vice Chairperson of the Budget, Finance & Personnel Committee, said, “The 2016 year end audited financial report is good news and we can be proud of the progress made in recent years, with the Legislature and the Administration working together for the common goal of financial stability and improved services for our residents. There is still much work to do; and I look forward to working with County Executive Molinaro in the upcoming budget process to ensure we continue to enhance the quality of life for every person in Dutchess County, while remaining committed to the financial stability we have worked so hard to achieve.”
Dutchess County’s 2016 year end audited financial report can be viewed online.