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Politics and Government

Local governments will be graded on fiscal health

Municipalities and school districts in New York state will soon get graded on their fiscal health. A fiscal monitoring system run by the state comptroller's office will publicly identify local governments that may be heading towards a fiscal cliff.

The early warning monitoring system includes nine indicators of trouble, according to Comptroller Tom Dinapoli's office. Things like how much cash does a municipality have on hand as well as population trends  and tax assessment growth.  

This early warning system comes at a time when most municipalities and school districts are under the strain of skyrocketing pension and health care costs.

Syracuse City Auditor Marty Masterpole thinks it's a good idea.

"I think this monitoring system the controller has put in place can really have a good impact on information sharing," said Masterpole. "To realize that the financial troubles Syracuse has are not unique to Syracuse."

Masterpole says beyond the fiscal stress of runaway pension and health care costs, it's good to know what other things may be causing budget problems for municipalities.

The comptroller's office will begin analyzing data for localities whose fiscal years ended December 2012, and results will range from "significant fiscal stress" to "not in fiscal stress."  

If a government is under fiscal stress, then it can get help from the state to try to put its fiscal affairs on a better path.