High taxes land one-third of local governments on fiscally distressed list

Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to cap binding arbitration rulings involving public employee union contracts working for local governments deemed in “fiscal distress”. Localities would earn this dubious distinction if their reserves represent less than 5 percent of their operating budgets if their tax rates rank among the state’s top quartile.

The Albany Times Union has a good primer, including a table listing the status of each county, city, town and village in the state. Investigative Post has broken out the list for Erie and Niagara counties.

The bottom line for the locals: 23 of 75 units of government are defined as in fiscal distress, all for high tax rates.

All the region’s cities make the list: Buffalo, Lackawanna, Niagara Falls, Tonawanda, North Tonawanda and Lockport. So do some large towns, including Cheektowaga, Tonawanda and West Seneca.

Villages account for 12 of the 23 distressed localities, including East Aurora, Kenmore, Lancaster and Wilson. Consolidation advocate Kevin Gaughan is probably shaking his head knowingly at that.

Niagara County is distressed under the administration’s formula; Erie is not.