Like many upstate cities, Gloversville is facing hard times.
Below-average home values, high unemployment and increasing employee benefits are among factors putting financial pressure on the city of about 15,500.
Those and other details in a fiscal profile hand-delivered Wednesday by state Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli spell out difficult times ahead for a city that’s creeping closer to its taxing limit.
But the exodus of industry that began decades ago, added to growing poverty among the city’s population, aren’t the only factors making life tough in Gloversville. According to DiNapoli’s report, New York state isn’t doing much to help in terms of financial aid.
Throughout the Mohawk Valley, the state’s Aid and Incentives to Municipalities program provides on average $288 per person. Statewide, the per-capita figure was at $258 in financial aid. But in Gloversville, residents see $175 in state aid.
A reason for the disparity in aid is an element of the city’s fiscal profile that Mayor Dayton King asked DiNapoli and his team to check. There was no answer to that question on Wednesday.
DiNapoli is delving into fiscal profiles to help highlight the unique issues faced by upstate cities west of the Hudson River. Gloversville is the latest in the series of reports that have also profiled Utica, Niagara Falls and Salamanca in the past several months.
“This is where we see the real challenges,” DiNapoli said.
Despite difficulties and less help than most get from New York state, the report highlights some indicators that the city is moving in the right direction. The city is collecting 93 percent of the amount of taxes allowed by the state constitution, leaving only $505,000 available until it meets that threshold. But unlike 2005, when it came within $49 of its taxing limit, Gloversville is now building up reserves.
The city had a fund balance of about $2.16 million in 2011 and is expected to end 2013 with about $2 million in reserve. Meanwhile, the city’s revenues are growing at a higher rate than spending.
“Even though there have been challenges, positive things have been happening,” DiNapoli said.
King said Gloversville leaders have been forced to make “tough choices” since 2010, when the city was facing “possible bankruptcy.” Three police officer positions were cut in 2010, pay for employees has remained unchanged since and equipment purchases have been halted “unless we really need it,” King said.
King said the new Walmart Supercenter expected to open in July should provide a boost in sales tax revenues and he hopes to maintain a conservative attitude as employee contracts are renewed.
DiNapoli said there are no easy answers. “What we all need to see is a significant uptick in our economy,” DiNapoli said.