About 675 local authorities operate in New York state and provide a host of important services to citizens. However, the 639 authorities operating outside of New York City employ more than 4,300 employees, report approximately $1.5 billion in spending and $18 billion in outstanding debt, and operate with little oversight, according to a report issued today by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.
In an effort to enhance oversight over local authorities, DiNapoli’s office has launched a series of local authority audits and will periodically release research and policy reports probing how local authorities can operate more effectively and be more accountable to the public.
“My goal is to shed light on these types of entities – share what we know and what we have yet to fully understand,” said DiNapoli. “Because local authorities fly so low under the radar, operating without the oversight and controls required of municipal governments, it’s difficult for taxpayers to know how effective they are. My audits have shown an increased risk of waste and abuse by these entities, sometimes leaving taxpayers on the hook for millions of dollars in inappropriate costs.”
Local authorities facilitate economic development activities, provide water delivery and sewer systems, manage solid waste, maintain parking structures, and manage public housing. They can be either public or private entities. Public authorities include industrial development agencies (IDAs), urban renewal agencies, water, sewer, solid waste authorities and housing authorities.
About 279 local authorities are private not-for-profits most of which are local development corporations (LDCs). Currently, DiNapoli's office lacks express authority to directly audit LDCs and other private local entities, which limits the amount of information local taxpayers have concerning the use of resources. DiNapoli submitted legislation this week that would provide his office direct audit authority over LDCs and other organizations controlled by municipal corporations and certain other government entities.
According to the Comptroller’s report, 433 local authorities submitted revenue and expenditure data for the most recent fiscal year through the Public Authorities Reporting Information System.
A total of 282 local authorities reported having staff during the periods examined. In total, these local authorities reported employing 4,268 people and paying $182 million in total compensation (excluding the value of non-wage items, such as fringe benefits).
Additional highlights in the report include:
- Counties with the highest number of local authorities were: Westchester (46); Nassau (31); Erie (29); Suffolk (29); Monroe (26); Orange (25); and Albany (24);
- · Water, sewer and solid waste authorities reported approximately $925 million in expenditures, which accounts for 60 percent of all local authority expenditures; · IDAs and LDCs held 85 percent of all the local authority debt reported; and · Local authority staffing levels were highest in Erie County (755 employees); Suffolk County (703); Monroe County (411); Albany County (383); and Onondaga County (321).
To read the report, which includes county-by-county breakdown of authority data, visit:
For access to state and local government spending and 50,000 state contracts, visit OpenBookNY. The easy-to-use website was created by Comptroller DiNapoli to promote openness in government and provide taxpayers with better access to the financial workings of government.