For the second consecutive year, Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano has proposed a property tax increase in his annual budget -- 1.2 percent for 2016 -- as well as new fee hikes totaling $43 million.
Mangano, a Republican, disclosed the tax increase, which he said amounts to $23 for the average homeowner, Tuesday as he unveiled his $2.95 billion budget. The plan includes $33.5 million in spending cuts due primarily to lower utility costs, a trimmed-down workforce and the elimination of Nassau Coliseum maintenance costs.
But officials said lagging sales tax receipts and higher health care costs made the tax and fee increases necessary.
"You have two challenges this year," Mangano said.
The tax hike would produce $12 million in new revenue from residential and commercial properties, administration officials said. Between the county's seven funds, the total tax levy would increase from $1.017 billion to $1.029 billion, or 1.2 percent.
Under a 2-year-old state program, municipalities that comply with the 2 percent property tax cap and otherwise control costs can qualify for state rebates in the amount of the tax hike for their homeowners who earn less than $500,000. Homeowners earning more than $500,000 and all businesses are ineligible for the rebate check.
Mangano used the program last year when he increased the county property tax levy by 3.4 percent to raise $31 million in revenue -- his first tax hike in six years in office, after running on a re-election platform of having never raised taxes.
The 2016 budget must be approved by the GOP-controlled County Legislature by early November. Lawmakers stripped out last year's tax increase, but a veto by Mangano restored it.
All 19 county legislators are up for re-election this fall. Mangano said that didn't affect his decision to raise taxes or fees.
"This budget is not based on politics, it's based on what is necessary to continue to deliver both mandated services and quality of life services," said Mangano, noting that the county continues to boast low crime and unemployment rates.
Legislative leaders said they'd have to review the budget before saying whether they'd approve the tax hike. "There is no desire on the part of this majority to raise taxes," said GOP legislative spokesman Frank Moroney.
Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said Democrats will review the budget "with the intent to protect taxpayers."
The majority of new property tax revenue would go to county police funds, primarily to cover salary increases in police union contracts, Mangano said.
The proposed fee increases include: from $150 to $300 for mortgage recording, from $75 to $225 for tax map verification, and from $30 to $45 for traffic ticket administrative charges.
However, Mangano said that under his budget, the county no longer would collect the administrative charge for tickets that are dismissed in court. "If you can prove your case, you shouldn't have to pay," Mangano said.
Suffolk County in late 2013 ended collection of administrative fees on dismissed tickets.
Nassau's 2016 budget also dedicates $10 million in operating funds to pay for property tax refunds, and $20 million to pay for legal settlements and judgments. The county traditionally has paid those costs through borrowing. Under the 2016 budget, Nassau would borrow another $60 million to pay tax refunds.
Nassau Interim Finance Authority chairman Jon Kaiman said NIFA members "are looking to see a budget that meets county obligations without relying on bonded revenue to do so." With Celeste Hadrick