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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

NIFA report: What Nassau residents should know

NIFA Chairman Jon Kaiman looks on during the

NIFA Chairman Jon Kaiman looks on during the Nassau Interim Finance Authority meeting at the Long Island Marriott in Uniondale on Friday, May 2, 2014. Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

A Nassau Interim Finance Authority staff report last week on the county's proposed 2015 budget included the usual warnings about finances.

But it also includes a few items that Every Nassau Resident Should Know.

1: School speed zone cameras are not going away any time soon.

In fact, the program is mentioned five times in the 27-page report. On Page 3, for example, there's a notation that the cameras could help reduce a projected 2014 budget gap if "cameras generate more fines than assumed."

One page later, the cameras are back, as a major -- sorry for the pun -- driver of an anticipated $12.4 million surplus in the fines and forfeitures category.

The report goes on to note, however, that "although very early results indicate that the county will meet its estimates, there is insufficient data to gauge its ultimate success, especially since violations will probably diminish as the public becomes more aware" of the speed camera program.

2: Nassau Health Care Corporation, which runs Nassau University Medical Center, could be in trouble.

Nassau, as the report notes, initially intended to end an annual $13-million payment to the corporation this year, but County Executive Edward Mangano has proposed extending the obligation into 2015.

The payment disappears later, in the county's proposed five-year budget plan. But that hardly would sever the county's relationship with the corporation.

Nassau guarantees NHCC's $247 million in long-term outstanding debt. That means that if the corporation goes belly up, county taxpayers would be left to shoulder the debt.

"We are concerned about the fiscal stability of NHCC and the effect that any disruption in its services would have on the residents of Nassau County," according to the report.

"However, the county should look first at its legal obligation, and if it gives money to NHCC, it should be convinced that the money will be spent in a targeted manner and for its highest and best uses."

Presumably, that would not include some of the high-paying patronage posts at NHCC previously reported in Newsday.

Item 3: There will be fees.

Last year, Nassau raised fees in a number of areas, but never implemented some of the increases. That could change this year should the county go through with plans to collect fees for verifying tax maps, and accessing some online documents from the clerk's office.

Nassau intends to generate more revenue by increasing enforcement of current regulations and expanding existing laws affecting taxi, livery and limousine services -- increases that likely would be passed on to customers.

4: The borrowing will go on and on.

While Nassau residents won't feel the impact immediately, the NIFA report, once again, includes warnings about the county's continuing reliance on borrowing.

As the report makes clear, hundreds of millions of dollars over the next five years is one way Nassau intends to make ends meet for the foreseeable future.

"The county must cut back on its borrowing if it is ever going to free itself of a control period and regain its place among the pre-eminent counties in the country," according to the report.

The solution, it says, rests not with a state control board, but with Nassau's elected officials.


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