Nassau Comptroller George Maragos is expected to announce on Monday that the county ended 2016 with a multimillion-dollar budget surplus, although officials differ on the amount.
Maragos told at least one community group earlier this month that the county closed last year with an $80 million surplus — the same number announced by County Executive Edward Mangano in February.
But sources say Maragos will report a surplus of closer to $40 million because of unanticipated end-of-year expenses and budget transfers.
A Maragos spokeswoman last week declined to give final numbers, which still must be confirmed by the county’s outside auditors.
Maragos also is expected to acknowledge that the county’s financial control board — which doesn’t count borrowed money, one-time revenues and the use of fund balances toward the bottom line — will calculate a year-end deficit of about $73 million.
The control board, the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, had directed that Nassau’s deficit be no more than $80 million last year.
Maragos told the Elmont Chamber of Commerce on April 6, “Just to give you a preview of our 2016 results, we will have an embarrassing surplus of about $80 million. It is embarrassing because if you recall there were major issues and fights at the end of 2016 with regards to the budget for 2017, where they have to cut bus service because they felt they wouldn’t have enough money, that they would have to increase traffic violations fees by over 100 percent.”
In a video of his speech posted on the personal Facebook page of Elseah Chea, who works for Maragos, the comptroller also noted that about $60 million of the projected surplus was borrowed to pay property tax refunds.
Maragos is running for Nassau County executive as a Democrat. Mangano, a Republican, has not said whether he will run for a third term. He was arrested in October and charged with receiving “bribes and kickbacks” from a businessman who also gave Mangano’s wife a lucrative no-show job, federal authorities said.
Mangano in February said Nassau would not have to borrow this year to pay property tax refunds because of the projected $80 million surplus. Moody’s Investors Service subsequently commended the move.
Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin on Friday stood by the $80 million figure.
“Once again the Mangano administration beat the Comptroller’s midyear forecast (of a budget deficit) and had he been more accurate, the administration could have spent the $60 million in 2016 — thus saving taxpayers interest and ending borrowing in 2016,” Nevin said in a statement.
But NIFA member Chris Wright said any use of the word “surplus” would be “malpractice.”
Wright said, “In reconciling the statements of elected and appointed officials to the reality of Nassau County’s budget status, one only needs to look at the evidence. When the county still needs NIFA approval for things like [bus] funding, which was for only .05 percent of the budget, two things are certain: First, the county has a substantial budget deficit and second, the officials who claim that there is a surplus aren’t telling the truth.”
Meanwhile, sales tax collections so far this year are growing more slowly than expected, according to legislature’s office of budget review.
Revenues were up 0.94 percent in January and February compared with the same period last year. However, Nassau needs only a 1.1 percent increase in sales tax collections for the rest of this year to meet budget, the budget review office said.
“Sales tax is within range,” said Eric Naughton, Mangano’s deputy county executive for finance.