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County finances a concern

The Fiscal Stress Monitoring System report released this week by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli includes some good news.

The number of municipalities listed is the fewest since he implemented the early-warning system in 2013. There are 38 municipalities on the fiscal 2016 list, down from 59 last year and a high of 69 in 2014.

Also encouraging is that there are no cities, towns or villages from the Greater Rochester region on the list this year.

But the region doesn’t escape entirely. Monroe County appears at the top of the list of municipalities with significant stress. That is defined as having a fiscal score of 65 percent or higher; Monroe County’s is 78.8 percent.

Monroe County has been on the significant stress portion of the list each of the four years it has been produced. In fact, it is the only municipality in New York that has received that designation all four years.

The county disputes the value of DiNapoli’s list, claiming that any stress it faces is state-created.

“Albany controls over 80 percent of Monroe County’s budget through mandated spending every year — there is no better definition of ‘fiscal stress’ than that,” county spokesman Jess Sleezer said in a statement.

While state mandates unquestionably play a role in Monroe County’s financial situation, other counties have been able to handle their state responsibilities without leaving their local finances in question.

It is up to Monroe County leaders to explore all options for relieving some of the financial pressures we face as a community. Working to reduce the number of unfunded mandates from Albany can be part of that strategy, but it cannot be the entire strategy.

Whether they agree with his system or not, county officials have now been warned four times that their financial situation is precarious. Should it move from precarious to untenable, claiming they could not do anything because their hands were tied by the state will not be enough.

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