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$60 million in borrowing for tax settlements approved in Nassau

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano at his office

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano at his office in Mineola on Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The Nassau County Legislature has unanimously approved borrowing $60 million this year to pay property tax refunds owed to businesses and homeowners who successfully challenged their property assessments.

Although Democratic lawmakers had held up borrowing in the past to use as a bargaining chip during legislative redistricting, they voted without comment Monday to authorize the new bonding. Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said Wednesday that Democrats had agreed to support $60 million in borrowing as part of a budget agreement with County Executive Edward Mangano and Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) last October.

That deal called for "quality of life" initiatives that included reopening the Fifth Precinct in Elmont as a full-service precinct, speeding up the construction of the First Precinct station house in Baldwin, creating a body camera program for county police, and rolling out dashboard cameras for all patrol cars.

Abrahams said Democrats decided to vote for the borrowing after the administration assured them that it had filled budget shortfalls created by the ending of an ill-fated school-zone speed camera program that was supposed to bring in $30 million this year.The administration had said the shortfall would be covered by several measures, including lower insurance premium costs and a new assessment property verification fee."We committed to it so we're not going to tie it up with politics," Abrahams said. "We decided to go forward so homeowners and businesses can get their refunds."

Asked the status of some of the deal's initiatives, officials said the Fifth Precinct in Elmont is expected to reopen as a full-service precinct on Monday. It had been merged with the Fourth Precinct in Hewlett as part of a consolidation plan, but the administration agreed to re-establish the Fifth Precinct, one of the county's busiest, after lobbying by legislators, police and Elmont residents.

Officials also said work is underway on the First Precinct station house. It was to be merged into Seaford's Seventh Precinct, but that plan was dropped after the Seaford station house flooded during superstorm Sandy and after Baldwin residents objected to the change.

Abrahams said police body cameras "are still in discussion," while Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin said the county is finalizing details for a pilot program.

But Police Benevolent Association president James Carver said Wednesday that the cameras "have to be negotiated with the unions. . . . There has been no discussion with the unions about a pilot program."

Carver said dashboard cameras were installed in some highway patrol cars but have run into "technical difficulties."

The $60 million in borrowing still must be approved by the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, the county's financial control board. The county administration had asked NIFA last month to authorize the borrowing, but the control board did not act because the legislature had yet to approve it.

NIFA chairman Jon Kaiman said the borrowing "request is within the county's four year plan previously approved by NIFA. Nevertheless, we will review according to our practice and make a final determination when we next meet."

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