Updated 07/17/2012 06:19 PM
Upstate mayors meet
The state's major cities have been issuing warnings for some time: Something needs to give on their budget costs, or financial collapse is unavoidable. YNN's Bill Carey says the leaders of some of those cities gathered in Syracuse to talk strategy as they seek help in coping with looming disaster.
To view our videos, you need to
install Adobe Flash 9 or above. Install now.
Then come back here and refresh the page.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Inside Syracuse University's Maxwell School, the discussion focused on survival. How the state's large cities can overcome what seems to be an insurmountable challenge. Massive structural deficits with no way of meeting those costs.
“Our out years are unbridgeable. We'll take responsibility for them. We will do anything we can to piece the budgets together. But, at the end of the day, a half a billion dollars over four years is something that is extremely difficult for a city, like the City of Yonkers, for us to be able to deal with,” said Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano.
Mayors say they can no longer just "cut" their way out of red ink.
Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings said, “I've cut probably 10 percent of my staff over the past four or five years. I don't want to compromise police and fire and paramedic services. But those are the areas that cost us the most and there's no doubt they're going to get hit if we continue this downtrend and really don't have the money to prove the services.”
“The long term, structural financial problems for these cities is serious. And the whole purpose in having these meetings and, quite frankly, in calling attention to the issue is to not let ourselves get to that point,” Rochester Mayor Thomas Richards said.
The leaders of the state's cities know that they have no easy answers to the problems that they're facing. But they believe by coming together and discussing those problems and coming up with a common strategy, they hope to avoid bankruptcies and control boards in the future.
High on the list is further mandate relief to ease costs. But there are likely to be calls for some source of steady revenue to help pay the bills, as well. Otherwise, the bankruptcy option becomes more real.
“Unless there's some major turnaround in the economy, I'd say within the next 24 months, one of them is either going to have a control board or they're going to be filing for bankruptcy,” said State Senator John DeFrancisco.
“If nothing changes, if the same trends hold true, you will find every municipality in New York State faced with that very dire choice. Sooner, rather than later,” Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner said.
It remains unclear just how far the state and federal governments are ready to go in heading off that disaster.
Not represented at the mayors' meeting was the City of Buffalo, which is already under the scrutiny of a state control board, which was given control over the city's budget back in 2003.