Syracuse (WSYR-TV) - While the financial situation in the city of Syracuse hasn’t been described as desperate yet, Mayor Stephanie Miner has asked for some legal expertise on municipal bankruptcy.
The signs of the city’s financial problems have been evident for several years as city employees accept wage freezes and fire and police departments see staff reductions.
The city will use an early payment from Albany to help keep the budget from dipping into dwindling reserves. Skyrocketing pension and healthcare costs continue to be a problem for the city budget.
“Bankruptcy isn’t the answer. It’s not like we sort of restructure and become a different city,” said Professor of Economics and Senior Associate Dean, Maxwell School at Syracuse University Michael Wasylenko.
City residents shouldn’t expect traffic lights to suddenly start going out overnight or the water to stop flowing. Before the city of Syracuse would be able to file for bankruptcy, the State would need to step in with the Financial Control Board.
"It takes some of the politics out of a decision, some of the blame game. When it gets to this stage we've got a problem, how we got there is interesting, but not going to solve it,” Wasylenko said.
Wasylenko says a board could try anything from consolidation to cutting expenses, to raising taxes, and although bankruptcy is unlikely, it remains a possibility.
"Let's be prepared so when we do sit down and negotiate we know clearly what the implications are. This is where we're going if we don't do this, let's make some clear headed decisions instead of muddling through and I think the Mayor is to be applauded on this,” he said.
The mayor’s office says it is also learning about what a municipal bankruptcy would mean, following places like Stockton, Calif. who made that move.
The state has invoked a Financial Control Board before, currently in the city of Buffalo, twice previously in Yonkers, and once in New York City.