As Nassau and Suffolk counties struggle with budget deficits, the Long Island Regional Planning Council has hired a Philadelphia-based consulting firm to recommend new strategies to help ease fiscal woes.
PFM Group Consulting LLC, which will be paid $98,925, was chosen out of three firms that responded to the council’s solicitation last September.
“We chose them because they have extensive national experience, but they have also worked with local municipalities here,” said Richard Guardino, executive director of the council, which deals with major regional issues and is funded by both counties.
PFM has worked locally for the Long Island Power Authority and on a consolidation study of Nassau government under former County Executive Thomas Suozzi.
Guardino added that PFM has a broad national profile helping other local governments climb out of the dire fiscal setbacks after the 2008 Wall Street meltdown.
“They have a local and a global perspective and have come up with pretty creative ways that are state of the art in regards to dealing with the tax burden,” he said.
Last year, PFM helped Atlantic City develop a five-year plan to avoid a state takeover. That city faced a $100 million deficit and owed $228 million in bonds they issued over tax appeals and $165 million in tax refunds to three gambling casinos.
In the past, the firm also has helped the cities of Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh and Miami deal with serious financial difficulties.
The council’s chairman, John Cameron, said he hopes the study will be complete by May or June so Nassau and Suffolk can use the recommendations in preparing their 2018 operation budgets — work that will begin this summer. The consultant will make two presentations to outline their findings and recommendations.
“I think it’s worthy to take a look at what other municipalities are doing,” said Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Copiague). “Citizens are always sensitive about raising taxes, but it’s good to see how others are trying to retrofit government and make things work with the least impact on people’s wallets.”
A spokesman for Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano did not immediately return calls for comment.
The study also will require the consultant to update the council’s 2010 Long Island Comprehensive Sustainability Plan’s forecast of tax growth, and interview local experts to identify emerging trends that could impact revenues. The original sustainability plan forecast that property taxes would take up 14 percent of the average household income by 2035 — up from 8.3 percent in 2009 — a level planning officials considered “unsustainable.”
The consultant then will develop revised forecasts for spending and well as property and sales tax growth through 2035. They also will “research forecasts of [income and population] growth on Long Island in order to establish an analytical base for personal income tax growth.”
PFM also will provide an overview of other strategies enacted around the nation, such as consolidation, use of technology and pension reform, that would improve efficiency.