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Maragos: $100 million in revenue in Nassau's 2015 budget unlikely to materialize

Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos on June 12,

Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos on June 12, 2013. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

More than $100 million in revenue in Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano's 2015 budget, which the county legislature approved unanimously on Wednesday, is at risk and may not materialize, county Comptroller George Maragos said Thursday.

The legislature stripped $31 million in property tax hikes proposed by Mangano out of the $2.98 billion budget and added $1 million in spending for mental health and substance addiction programs.

But Maragos said Thursday that at least $26 million in alternatives approved by lawmakers to offset the lost tax revenue are unlikely to materialize.

"The county's fiscal challenges have not been addressed by the legislature, but in fact have been made worse," Maragos said. "Relying on uncertain revenues while continuing to increase spending is placing the county in an unsound fiscal state."

Maragos noted that the legislative plan relies in part on recovery of $11 million in bond premiums. But the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, a state monitoring board that controls the county's finances, said bond premiums cannot be used for operating purposes, Maragos said.

Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) disagreed. "The money and opportunity is there, and there is nothing irresponsible about using these resources to avoid a tax increase on our residents and businesses," Gonsalves said.

NIFA chairman Jon Kaiman did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.

County lawmakers also voted to restructure debt to save $7 million and more aggressively collect $1.2 million in fees and fines. Maragos said both already have been done, and there is little opportunity for additional savings.

The legislature is also counting on $13 million in savings from ending contracts for which services were never rendered. Maragos said $6 million in contracts could be ended, but the other $7 million should be kept because the county will need the services later.

Earlier this month, Maragos said Mangano's budget had a potential deficit of $75.4 million, largely because of declining sales tax revenue. With the legislature's new changes, Maragos said the total budgetary risk is $101 million.

Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said Democrats disagreed with Maragos, "and firmly believe that the budget passed by the legislature was a far better alternative than the county executive's plan to saddle residents with a tax hike."

Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin said the administration will schedule a meeting with NIFA "to discuss the legislature's actions." Mangano must sign or veto the budget by Nov. 8.

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