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State report commends Utica for financial rebound

Payne Horning
WRVO News File Photo

A recent report from the New York State Financial Restructuring Board praised Utica officials for stabilizing the city's financial condition. The assessment came at the request of Utica's mayor and common council after they took painstaking steps to reverse an $8 million budget gap and depleted fund reserves in 2012.

The poor management led to a downgrade from three major financial ratings agencies. After Mayor Robert Palmieri assumed office, he said city officials completely restructured their entire operation.

"We made cuts, we consolidated some of our services, we became much more effective and efficient within our departments and we cut close to 20 percent of our workforce to get to the point where we could operate in the position we are currently are at this time," Palmieri said.

Utica finished the last few years with surpluses, its financial ratings have been upgraded and the city's reserves are now at acceptable state levels. The report from the restructuring board commended the city for those steps, but it also said the city has room for improvement. It recommends that the city develop multi-year financial plans, replace its aging traffic lights and search for more ways to share services with nearby municipalities and governments. To help Utica accomplish those goals, the restructuring board is considering giving the city a grant worth $750,000.

Palmieri agreed that city officials can do more, saying it is incumbent upon them to be creative.

"I think every municipality runs into the same amount of problems: a lot of the industries have lost and it has not been supplemented with the same type of tax base that it has been maybe 40 or 50 years ago," Palmieri said. "So, we’re recreating ourself and as you recreate yourself, you have to make some changes."

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.