Two prominent leaders called for New York's state government to take steps to prevent the state's cities, towns and villages from ending up in bankruptcy.
"Virtually all of the causes of Detroit's dire predicament — unaffordable pension and health care costs, an eroding tax base, and a declining financial commitment from the state — are prevalent here in New York," New York State Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officials Executive Director Peter Baynes said. "While our cities are not yet knocking on bankruptcy's door, there are some that are clearly heading down a path toward Detroit."
Baynes called for the state government to provide "additional financial assistance, meaningful mandate relief, and the accountability necessary to document the results of such investment." Without growth in state aid, "a growing overreliance on the regressive property tax will push our communities into the fiscal death spiral that is consuming Detroit."
Baynes also called for relief from state mandates, starting with pension reform and changes to the arbitration process.
Syracuse Mayor and state Democratic Party co-chair Stephanie Miner is also concerned about Detroit.
"Detroit's bankruptcy will impact all of us directly and indirectly," she wrote in an opinion piece in the Syracuse Post-Standard. "It is going to become more expensive for governments to do business as the bond market comes to terms with Detroit's fate."
Unlike Detroit, Syracuse has "refused to borrow our way into a delayed financial crisis," Miner wrote. The city government has taken tough steps towards fiscal stability. However, it still faces gaps.
"With the state's necessary help, we want to serve the people of Syracuse and New York State by creating an economic model that reflects our new reality," she wrote. "One that recognizes, for example, nonprofits needing expensive government services should pay for those services."
Most of Syracuse's largest employers are nonprofit institutions exempt from city property taxes. Syracuse University, Upstate Medical University and Hospital, the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and other higher learning institutions are among these institutions in the city of 145,000. The city has four major hospitals.
As of 2012, 56% of the city's land was tax-exempt. In 2011 the city reached an agreement with Syracuse University for the school to contribute $500,000 a year to the city for five years. However, this pales compares to the $24 million a year that a for-profit entity with the university's property would have to pay the city.
Miner wrote that Syracuse government does not want a state handout.
"We ask, again, that New York takes a different path from the one chosen by the governor of Michigan," Miner wrote.
In response to Baynes' statement, Richard Azzopardi, spokesman for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, said the governor has long recognized the fiscal challenges local governments have faced and prioritized helping them deal with these challenges.
"Last year he delivered billions in pension savings through Tier VI reform and took over the growth in Medicaid spending," Azzopardi said. "This year he passed the most significant binding arbitration reforms in years. As the governor previously said, each local government faces unique challenges and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. That's why we created the Financial Restructuring Board to assist municipalities in making the tough, but responsible, decisions now, in order to avoid fiscal difficulties in the future."