Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano's proposed $2.79 billion budget for 2014 was criticized during a budget hearing Wednesday for relying heavily on borrowing and not providing for salary increases should wage freezes be struck down by the courts.
The budget relies on $230 million in new borrowing for property tax refunds and "makes no provision for wage and step increases currently under negotiation and in litigation," said Dave Denenberg (D-Merrick), ranking member of the Finance Committee.
Deputy County Executive for Finance Tim Sullivan said the proposed budget cuts spending and marks the fourth straight year without a property tax increase.
Sullivan cited savings of $33 million from the public-private partnership to operate the county bus system, and $7 million from privatization of health care services at the jail.
The county, however, remains under financial stress, he said, much of it due to "enormous growth" in pension costs, a jump in health care expenses and lingering effects from the recession.
Sullivan said he is confident that the county will generate enough revenue -- primarily from sales taxes -- to chip away at its property tax refund backlog.
Republican George Maragos, Nassau's independently elected comptroller, praised the Mangano administration, but he, too, cautioned that the budget relies too much on borrowing.
"We are concerned . . . that only $10 million has been budgeted for property tax refunds . . . when the average payout over the past four years was approximately $63 million annually," Maragos said.
"We strongly urge the administration to return to annually paying at least $50 million of property tax refunds with recurring revenues . . . [and] forgo the proposed borrowing of $230 million," he said.
Maragos distributed his report to legislative members just before he spoke.
Afterward, Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) asked that Maragos be allowed to return next week to be questioned.
Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) refused, saying it was "against practice." She said Maragos could return on Oct. 28, when a final budget hearing will be heard and the vote is set to be taken. The next hearing is Oct. 16.
Public safety departments also presented their budgets Wednesday, including the correctional center, Office of Emergency Management, fire marshal, probation and police.
There was no public comment during yesterday's hearing.