Despite Monroe County proudly announcing an unassigned, unrestricted general fund balance of $4.2 million recently, deeper analysis of the 2014 Monroe County Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) shows a rapidly deteriorating financial situation.
"It is easy to pat themselves on the back with a $4.2 million surplus. However, given the size of the County's annual budget, this is the equivalent of an annual household budget of $50,000 ending the year with $169.50 available in savings," said Legislator Paul Haney (D - Rochester). "Not only that, the only reason the County is showing that $4.2 million is because they once again didn't account for all of its pension costs. It is easy for anyone to balance their books if they don't pay their bills."
A review of the CAFR reveals that this fund balance was only accomplished by again failing to record deferred pension costs to the State Retirement System. In 2014, the County deferred $19 million of pension costs. In fact, over the past five years the County has deferred $63 million of pension costs. These unpaid pension costs must be paid over the next ten or twelve years and, more importantly, must be paid with interest.
"As in years past, the Brooks Administration continues to stick its head in the sand and ignore the real problems facing our County. Continuously utilizing one-shot revenue sources instead of transparently balancing the County's revenues and expenditures has led to a precarious financial situation," Democratic Leader Carrie Andrews (D-Rochester) said. "The County Executive and Republican Majority need to admit that there is a budget problem that needs to be addressed. We must find some way to work together to stop this County from following in the footsteps of other financially-troubled entities like Detroit and Puerto Rico."
The long term decline in the County's financial position is abundantly clear. The CAFR contains full accrual or business basis financial statements which show a growing unrestricted net assets deficit in the tax supported governmental activities of Monroe County that has reached $579 million. This is another reason why Monroe County's bond rating is the second worst for large counties in New York State and why the State Comptroller's Office continues to label the County as fiscally stressed.