While Yonkers has a higher median income and fewer families in poverty than many cities in New York, it is still grappling with steep declines in property values — including a 24 percent drop between 2008 and 2011 — amid heavy demands on its municipal budget, State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said.
DiNapoli released his fiscal profile of Yonkers alongside Mayor Mike Spano Wednesday at City Hall.
The comptroller also cited the city-funded Yonkers public schools, for which the city must raise taxes and issue debt, as well as recent declines in state aid, as other sources of financial stress.
DiNapoli’s report on Yonkers is the latest of his fiscal profiles looking at the financial health of cities in the state. DiNapoli began issuing the reports in December, beginning with Niagara Falls and Salamanca, which are both coping with a loss of expected revenue from Indian-run casinos. His office will release periodic profiles as a way to inform officials and residents of some of the unique and systemic pressures on cities.
In his profile of Yonkers, DiNapoli credited local officials for taking steps to improve the city’s fiscal health, including a hiring freeze, merging city departments and promoting economic development.
Yonkers faces a yawning budget deficit that could reach $86.5 million in the fiscal year starting July and as much as $187 million in 2016.
DiNapoli’s report shows that Yonkers’ fund balance decreased 69 percent from 2006 to 2011, in part because officials have relied on non-recurring revenues to plug budget gaps.
The analysis also reveals that Yonkers relies more on state aid than comparably large cities, making it more vulnerable to declines in that funding.
The report is based on data the city filed with his office in January 2012.
Despite these troubles, DiNapoli does not foresee another control-board takeover for Yonkers, saying his office’s regular oversight of the city’s finances makes that unlikely. Yonkers was under the watch of a control board from 1975 to 1996.
“We are all focused on trying to help localities figure out how to manage their affairs in a way that stops short of having to go to a control board,” DiNapoli said Wednesday.
Other findings include:
-The city’s expenditures grew by 47.4 percent from 2001 to 2011, compared to 34.2 percent for all cities in the state;
-Enrollment in the city schools increased nearly 6 percent between 2009 and 2012, whereas statewide public school enrollment declined by 0.8 percent; and
-While Yonkers gained population rapidly through 1960, its population has been relatively stable since, gaining only 2.8 percent through 2010. During the same period, Westchester County’s population grew by 17.3 percent.
Spano said sounded a hopeful note Wednesday.
“It took us many years to get into this position,” the mayor said. “It’s not going to take a year to get us out. We have to get through this together.”