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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

NIFA roars — and Nassau blinks

NIFA roared.

Nassau blinked.

And as a result, the county on Monday added guaranteed revenues and service cuts before — rather than after — its 2017 budget went into effect.

The cuts — actually, County Executive Edward Mangano called them “suspensions” — are the largest put into place before Jan. 1 in the 16-year history of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, the county’s financial control board.

There’s another first: The reductions cut not just across county departments, but also across the offices of independently elected Nassau officials, including the district attorney and county clerk. The county board of elections, staffed by partisan Democrats and Republicans, also is in for cuts.

As for youth services, which ends up on the chopping block just about every year, they’re fully funded — as is emergency services training for firefighters and other rescuers, which just last week had been slated for cuts.

All in all it looks like NIFA’s take-no-prisoners approach — which included unprecedented threats to halt borrowing and contract approvals, and even, if necessary, seek misdemeanor charges against uncooperative county officials — worked.

That’s not to say Nassau’s out of the woods yet, however.

Even with $36 million in new revenues approved by lawmakers Monday, and the cuts that will be put into effect administratively by Mangano, the 2017 budget has a gap of more than $40 million.

Mangano said in an interview Monday that he remains hopeful that some of his service “suspensions” can be restored — should Nassau find revenue enough to win NIFA’s approval to bring them back.

“We are trying to suspend and not terminate these services, including, hopefully buses,” Mangano said. “Our desire is that everything by February will be fully funded.”

Mangano, for example, cut revenue to NICE buses by $3.8 million — a move that likely will cause the private company managing the service to eliminate some bus routes. He also cut $250,000 to the Long Island Regional Planning Council — the entire Nassau portion of the bicounty board’s funding.

Mangano, who has pleaded not guilty to federal corruption-related charges, also cut funding to his own office — including the office of management and budget — by $700,000.

Is it realistic to believe that things will change by February — and in an election year for the county executive and legislature?

“The legislature had predicted revenue that NIFA would not approve,” Mangano said. “If it comes in, if the legislature finds new revenue then, with NIFA’s approval, the suspensions would be lifted.”

For that, however, Nassau would have to find enough revenue to restore the cuts to services — and cover some of the budget’s remaining shortfalls.

“The legislature said yes, it could be done; NIFA said no,” Mangano said. “We will see who is right, and who is wrong.”

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