Less than two months into New York City's 1992 fiscal year, one of the city's harshest fiscal critics offered some upbeat news: He complimented officials on deciding to strictly monitor their budget process and preparing a budget contingency plan.
"We are pleased that the city agreed to implement our recommendations to tighten controls and monitoring over PEG -- program to eliminate the gap," state Comptroller Edward V. Regan said in a statement accompanying his monthly "milestone" report on the city's budget. "Enhanced monitoring -- on the city's part as well as ours -- is vital to maintain budget balance in these difficult times."
City officials announced in July they would implement steps to tighten controls and monitoring of programs to eliminate a projected $2.3 billion budget gap in fiscal 1992, which began July 1. These steps include increased surveillance of city agency budgets.
And in early August, Mayor David N. Dinkins said he would provide the state's Financial Control Board at a September meeting with a contingency plan to deal with any potential problems in the city's $28.5 billion fiscal 1992 budget.
Remarking on the results for the month of July, Mr. Regan said city tax revenues came in close to target, the head count of city employees declined by a total of 2,900 from June, and city officials and members of the Board of Education reached an agreement on compliance with the state's Stavisky-Goodman Act.
Mr. Regan also noted that labor unions have reportedly moved closer to the bargaining table by presenting a proposal to defer a 1% wage increase previously negotiated for fiscal 1992 and to reduce starting salaries by 10%.
The city, in turn, has reportedly decided against over half the layoffs initially planned for this fiscal year. City administration and agency officials are instead using attrition and early retirement programs, the comptroller's report notes.
The comptroller warned, however, that his office still projects a $283 million gap for fiscal 1992.
And the comptroller said he is concerned about whether or not the city will receive an additional $82 million in state aid.
"The state or mandate relief has not yet been identified," the report says, adding that the money was part of a $250 million state aid package for the city adopted by state lawmakers when they passed the state budget in June.
Nevertheless, city officials are taking the right steps to deal with potential budget problems, the comptroller noted.
And after months of wrangling over the budget that created an atmosphere of chaos, an air of fiscal stability appears to have descended on the city. In recent days, yields on long-term uninsured, tax-exempt city general obligation bonds, which earlier this year skyrocketed to some of their highest levels in the past 10 years, have fallen and are hovering around 7.90%.
Regarding the Stavisky-Goodman Act, Mr. Regan noted that city officials and members of the Board of Education hammered out an agreement to increase by $97 million the board's budget appropriation in fiscal 1992. The act, passed in the midst of the city's mid-1970s fiscal crisis, requires the city to allocate a certain portion of its annual budget to the Board of Education. If the allocation falls short of an amount stipulated by formula, then the board can sue the city for the funds.