More than $60 million in Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano's proposed 2013 budget is at risk, in part because of overly optimistic revenue projections from sales taxes and traffic tickets, according to a report released yesterday by Comptroller George Maragos.
The $2.79 billion proposed budget does not contain any spending or tax increases, Maragos said. But the Republican comptroller said the budget overestimated $39.1 million in revenue while $21 million in expenses could be understated.
The risk level, however, is the lowest in four years and a sharp decline from 2012, when Maragos identified $293 million in questionable revenue and expenses. "Overall, this is a good conservative budget with relatively minimal risk," Maragos said.
The analysis found that 2.2 percent of the budget is at risk.
For example, Maragos projects shortfalls of $7.2 million in sales tax revenue and $3.8 million from fines and ticket forfeitures. An additional $17.3 million in departmental revenue, including $5 million for housing illegal immigrants at the Nassau County Correctional Center is also at risk because a contract has yet to be signed by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.
Nassau also underbudgeted some key items, Maragos said.
He estimated that police overtime will come in $7.6 million higher than budgeted and jail overtime $1.1 million higher. An additional $22 million that Nassau expects to borrow for termination pay is also at risk, Maragos said, because it must be approved by the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, a state watchdog in control of the county's finances.
A spokeswoman said Mangano could not be reached immediately for comment.
Maragos also raised concerns about Mangano's plan to use $10 million from the county's already depleted fund reserves as a budget contingency. The fund balance now stands at just $40.5 million, giving the county little room for error, Maragos said.
More lean times are ahead, Maragos said. The analysis found that Nassau's budget gap will hit $85.1 million in 2014 and jump to $163.5 million by 2016.The county can reduce the budget gap by bringing some contracts in-house and canceling other contracts for nonessential services, the report said.