The New York State Financial Control Board said New York City is not in immediate danger of a takeover by the board, but it plans to step up its scrutiny of the city's budget and to meet quarter instead of annually.
At a formal annual meeting yesterday, which was called earlier in July than usual, the panel discussed assuming a more active role in reviewing and commenting on the city's budget. The board was created during the city's fiscal crisis of the mid-1970s to take over the city's finances, but since June 1986 has only prepared reports to review the city's fiscal plans.
While the city's fiscal 1992 budget was passed early Tuesday morning, the second day of the city's new fiscal year, board members and fiscal monitors are worried about how the budget will stay balanced in this fiscal year and ensuing fiscal years. The stepped-up scrutiny by the board, while not a takeover of the city's operations, indicates just how serious their concern has become, observers of the board have said.
All seven members of the board attended yesterday's meeting. Those members are Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, its chairman; Mayor David N. Dinkins; state Comptroller Edward V. Regan; city Comptroller Elizabeth Holtzman; and three members from the private sector.
Allen J. Proctor, executive director of the control board, said the board meets annually to determine if five events listed under the Financial Emergency Act have occurrd. The board could reinstitute a control period if any of all of the events have happened.
Mr. Proctor said three of the events did not occur in the city's fiscal 1991 year: the city has not failed to pay interest or principal on its bonds; has not violated short-term borrowing restrictions in the Financial Emergency Act; and the state and city comptrollers have reported that the city is not barred from the capital markets.
But the control board could not certify that the city did not have a $100 million target gap as a result of operations in fiscal 1991, which ended Sunday, because the board has not received the city's final modification of the 1991 financial plan.
And until the board and its staff receive the latest fiscal 1992 budget documents, it will not be able to determine if the city has in any way violated the five events that could trigger a control period under the Financial Emergency Act for that year.
If the city submits the documentation in the next seven days, the staff should be able to discuss fiscal 1991 and 1992 in the later half of July, Mr. Proctor said. The staff could meet at that time to report to the board members.
Stanley S. Shuman, executive vice president of Allen & Co. and one of the board's three private members, proposed regular meetings of the control board, at least quarterly. He noted that a board meeting has been scheduled for late July or August, and that a second meeting is likely in Septemebr. Mayor Dinkins also asked the control board to meet again in early August.
At these meetings, the board is expected to discuss its assessments of the city's gap-closing programs, he said. It will also review the city's efforts to implement steps to bring continuing structural balance, he said, adding that this "is essential for the city."
Commenting on the city's fiscal 1992 budget, Mayor Dinkins said, "With this latest budget, New York City has proved its fiscal mettle."
Mayor Dinkins, who seemed subdued during his commentary on the fiscal 1992 budget, thanked the control board for playing a positive role in the city's finances. But he added tat "the irony is that, as much as we hope to keep the board away from our affairs, we greatly appreciate the monitoring and analytical assistance you provide."
Two public members of the board expressed concern about the fiscal 1992 budget agreed to just hours before it was due on Sunday and passed by the city council early Tuesday morning.
State Comptroller Edward V. Regan, meanwhile, said his office is reviewing the city's fiscal 1992 budget. But he warned that the budget's tax revenue estimates may be overly optimistic and that its spending projections could be $300 million more than planned.
"Nonetheless, this budget is a very, very major step in the right direction," Mr. Regan said. He also noted that the city is likely to end fiscal year 1991 with a balanced budget.
City Comptroller Elizabeth Holtzman, while expressing her satisfaction that the city passed its 1992 budget more or less on time, said her office tentatively estimates tax revenues may be off by $305 million in fiscal 1992, and that spending may be $157 million higher.
"We also have some concern that the $125 million in saving from refundings may be a premature estimate and may not be fully realizable," she said, referring to a $1 billion defeasance of outstanding credit enhanced city general obligation bonds and other refinancings.
Based on a review of fiscal 1991, Ms. Hotzman said, "We don't envision the imposition of a control period." The city comptroller noted, however, that her office has to complete an audit of fiscal 1991.
During the meeting, Gov. Cuomo and Mayor Dinkins proposed the creation of a joint city and state effort to study and implement reforms to bring structural budget balance and improvements in the relationship between the city and the state