The New York State Financial Control Board, the state's fiscal monitor of New York City's finances, warned in a report released yesterday that the city still faces a budget gap of about $47 million for fiscal 1991 and strongly criticized its failure to implement a number of gap-closing measures.
The report also says circumstances may prevent the city from repeating fiscal 1991's last-minute feats of budget balancing in fiscal 1992, which begins July 1.
The report took the city to task on a number of issues, including a "chronic" failure in meeting its work-force reduction goals, not establishing a monthly monitoring system to ensure implementation of spending reductions, engaging in a risky and expersive short-term borrowing program, and racking up excessive debt service costs on its bonding program.
The control board, created in 1975 to oversee the city's finances during its fiscal crisis, could once again return to that role if the city has a $100 million budget gap at the end of its fiscal year, cannot pay debt service, or cannot enter the capital markets.
The control board review is an exhaustive survey of the city's fiscal year. It follows a report released by city Comptroller Elizabeth Holtzman that says the city has a remaining budget gap of $95 million in fiscal 1991. The city's Office of Management and Budget has projected a $465 million gap for fiscal 1991 and announced a variety of steps to deal with the problem.
After reviewing the city's thirdquarter modification of its fiscal 1991 financial plan, Allen J. Proctor, executive director of the control board, said in a statement: "With only two weeks left in the fiscal year, some available options still await implementation, and uncertainties continue to exist that could enlarge the deficit further.
But in a telephone interview yesterday, Mr. Proctor said he felt the city was capable of closing the gap. "I think it is pretty much in the bag."
The city's headcount reduction program has fallen woefully short of projected levels, the control board report says. In January, Mayor David N. Dinkins announced that about 8,200 city employees would be let go through attrition and layoffs.
Since then the city has laid off less than 1,200 employees and relied on redeployment and attrition for the remainder of the planned cuts, the report notes.
Reviewing a new short-term borrowing plan the city used in fiscal 1991, the control board report says the city could have "completely satisfied its projected need for operating cash for the year with less borrowing through a combined sale" of tax anticipation notes and revenue anticipation notes in July 1990.
The city ventured into the short-term market three times this fiscal year to borrow $3.6 billion: twice for planned cash flow borrowing purposes and once to cover cashflow problems created by a state budget impasse that held up state aid payments.
The control board said it remained critical of the city's decision to veer from its traditional short-term borrowing practices by splitting its note sale into separate borrowing and increasing the size of the borrowings.
In light of the city's problems in structurally balancing its four year financial plan, which covers fiscal 1992 through 1995. Mr. Proctor said, "There is more to fiscal management than balancing the budget."
The city faces a "substantial risk that fiscal 1992 may have unexpected mid-year gaps that may require additional funding during the course of the year," the report says. The spurs that could create such problems, the report notes, are continuation of abrupt declines in the city's major tax receipts, sharp increases in demands for social services, and the high cost of borrowing in the credit markets.
"The city was effective in the past two months in finding savings in agency budgets and identifying fiscal 1992 resources that could be accelerated into fiscal 1991," Mr. Proctor said in his statement. "The city may not have the same good fortune next year that failure of agencies to stay with budget and at planned headcourt can be easily tolerated and accommodated by finding additional savings elsewhere in the budget."
The control board also warns the city that it could face a lawsuit from the Board of Education because funding levels for education programs could fall short of the requirements stipulated in the Stavisky-Goodman Act, a law passed in 1976 to ensure the Board of Education receives an equitable portion of the city budget. The control board estimates the city's budget under-funds the Board of Education by $192 million in fiscal 1992.
The city comptroller's office in April reported the city faced a deficit as high as $636 million. Since then, about $431 million has been generated to close the gap, the city comptroller said recently.