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St. Lawrence County expecting financial-stress label

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CANTON — St. Lawrence County failed to submit an annual financial report for 2012 to the state comptroller’s office on time, but has no doubt it eventually will be identified as a fiscally stressed community.

“I would expect so,” Treasurer Kevin M. Felt said. “It won’t be a shock. We already know where we’re at.”

Audit results of the county released in May by the comptroller’s office reported that the county had cash flow problems and a marked decline in surplus funds, and that dealing with the lack of revenue has meant program cuts, tax increases and the possibility of an operating deficit.

“We’ve been saying for the last several years, we’re under fiscal stress,” county Administrator Karen M. St. Hilaire said. “If a report comes out and says we’re not, that will be an interesting day.”

The comptroller’s office recently issued statewide fiscal stress scores for municipalities, but St. Lawrence County was not rated because it did not file its annual report for 2012 by May 31.

That was because the treasurer’s office was adjusting to a new accounting management system and waiting on several issues that affected the 2012 bottom line. The report was turned in last week, Mr. Felt said.

“We just got the books closed,” he said.

A second report from the comptroller’s office is expected, Mr. Felt said.

The county was not alone in being behind. The comptroller’s office listed 124 communities that have not filed, including the town of Antwerp in Jefferson County, the towns of Bombay and Malone in Franklin County and the towns of Hermon and Rossie in St. Lawrence County.

Two dozen communities were designated as financially stressed. Franklin County was significantly stressed. The towns of Clare and Clifton in St. Lawrence County and the town of Lyonsdale in Lewis County were listed as susceptible to fiscal stress.

The comptroller’s office issued the report as an early warning system to help motivate municipalities and educate state leaders on systemic problems.

St. Lawrence County does not need more education on its financial standing, said Legislative Chairman Jonathan S. Putney, D-Waddington.

“There’s no surprise we would be listed as a county under fiscal stress,” he said.

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