Nassau County, which was projected to end last year with a budget deficit of $45 million, is now expected to wind up with a $25 million surplus.
County Comptroller George Maragos, who had warned in July that Nassau was headed toward a $45 million budget hole, said he now agrees with County Executive Edward Mangano that Nassau ended 2012 with millions of dollars in surplus. Final figures won't be available until outside auditors close the county's books in June.
Maragos said the county was able to go from deficit to surplus in part by paying down debt with $17 million in borrowed money left over from completed capital projects. That freed money for other operating expenses. The county also pushed off payment of some property tax refunds, and spent about $10 million less than budgeted for various departments, Maragos said.
“For three straight years my administration has delivered no-property-tax-increase budgets that have resulted in a surplus as we continue to advance structural reform for our county finances,” Mangano said in a statement.
But the county legislature's minority leader, Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said, “The surplus has no ounce of reality . . . Expenses outweigh the revenues that come in every year.”
The Mangano administration projected the $25 million surplus in a December report, sent last week to the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, the county's financial control board. In contrast, the county's November report to NIFA projected an $11.6 million deficit for 2012 unless the county curbed expenses or increased revenues.
In October, NIFA staff projected Nassau would end 2012 in the red by $25 million.
“It's miraculous, in a way,” Maragos said of the turnaround, adding that federal aid for superstorm Sandy recovery played no part in the surplus.
NIFA took control of the county's finances in 2011 after calculating that Nassau's recurring expenses exceeded recurring revenue by $176 million.
NIFA member Chris Wright said a $25 million cash surplus “would only be miraculous if that budget were balanced in accordance with statutory accounting standards. I suspect that on that basis the county's revenues and expenses are substantially out of line and that's the only standard that matters for NIFA's purposes.”
All county elected officials are up for election this year.
How Nassau County's projected budget has changed:
July 2012: $45 million deficit
November 2012: $11.6 million deficit
December 2012: $25 million surplus