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NIFA approves Mangano’s 2016 budget with conditions

NIFA Chairman Jon Kaiman, right, smiles during a

NIFA Chairman Jon Kaiman, right, smiles during a board meeting in Uniondale on Friday, Dec. 4, 2015. At the meeting, the Nassau Interim Finance Authority unanimously approved Nassau County's revised 2016 budget after mandating quarterly reviews next year to determine if revenue and spending are on target. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

The Nassau Interim Finance Authority unanimously approved the county’s revised 2016 budget Friday after mandating quarterly reviews next year to determine if revenue and spending are on target.

If county revenue fails to meet expectations, or spending exceeds projections, the state monitoring board will impose immediate cuts in the amount of the budget deficit every three months.

NIFA chairman Jon Kaiman said that if the plan fails, it’s because the county’s “numbers didn’t work . . . We are simply holding the county accountable for its own projections.”

At its meeting in Uniondale, NIFA declined to make immediate budget cuts but warned that it could impose a hiring freeze, cut department spending or reject contracts if Nassau fails to balance its budget.

The NIFA vote ends a monthslong process that has included a budget veto by County Executive Edward Mangano, the first-ever veto override by the county legislature and a budget intervention by the state monitoring board.

“With the adopted budget in place, Nassau will continue to provide important services while keeping our county the safest large suburban county in the nation,” Mangano said.

NIFA Friday first voted to reject Mangano’s revised budget, noting that it “fails to contain projections of revenues and expenditures that are based on reasonable and appropriate assumptions.” The board then adopted a resolution requiring the quarterly reviews and approved the $2.95 billion budget.

Under NIFA’s plan, at the beginning of each quarter next year, the board will require the county to identify $20 million in cuts that would be made at the end of the three-month period if spending is too high or revenue too low.

The board would work with county Comptroller George Maragos to conduct reviews of the county’s finances every three months.

The plan would begin Jan. 1 when Nassau would be required to produce potential budget cuts for both the first and fourth quarters of 2016 — to prevent the process from dragging into 2017.

“This creates a mechanism which should prevent the county from underperforming in 2016,” NIFA member Chris Wright said.

The budget battle began in October when the GOP-controlled county legislature approved Mangano’s spending plan after stripping out a 1.2 percent property tax hike that would have generated $12 million and cutting in half two fee increases, reducing the potential revenue by $16 million.

Mangano vetoed the budget to restore the tax hike. But lawmakers overrode the veto, sending the plan to NIFA.

The control board rejected the budget last month, citing $81 million in risky revenue assumptions, including sales tax revenue that may fall short of the county’s projections and police overtime costs that could exceed county estimates.

To eliminate potential cuts to youth programs and bus service, lawmakers last month restored the $16 million it cut from the total to be raised by mortgage recording fees and tax-map verification fees.

On Monday, Mangano resubmitted the budget to NIFA, including the new fee revenue and an additional $19.8 million in spending cuts.

NIFA also approved $22 million in short-term borrowing to cover employee termination costs in 2015. Mangano would tap $10 million from a county reserve fund to cover the remainder of the termination costs.

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