Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano's proposed 2016 budget has between $50 million and $180 million in risky revenue and spending assumptions, Comptroller George Maragos told county legislators Thursday.
Speaking to county lawmakers during the first of two hearings on the budget, Maragos said Nassau still has serious financial problems, and that the county may need to find more cost savings and revenue in order to end 2016 in with a balanced budget.
Maragos said $49.1 million in revenue in Mangano's budget may not materialize. Maragos pointed to $20 million in expected revenue from a proposed video lottery terminal parlor and an $11.2 million shortfall in projected sales tax revenues. He also said police overtime could be $7.8 million higher than forecast.
The comptroller's analysis said the budget deficit could reach $185.1 million if the legislature does not take actions such as approving Mangano's 1.2 percent property tax hike, increasing county fees and borrowing to pay for property tax refunds."The 2016 budget has little flexibility and leaves no room for error," Maragos said.
Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin did not respond to requests for comment on Maragos' findings.
Both Mangano and Maragos are Republican.
Mangano's $2.95 billion budget includes $12 million in new property tax revenues. The administration says the average homeowner will pay $23 more a year.
Mangano said a state program for homeowners earning less than $500,000 will provide rebates in the amount of the tax increase. Homeowners earning more than $500,000 and businesses would not qualify for the rebate.
Eric Naughton, Nassau's deputy county executive for finance, said the rebate means "there is no impact" on residents from the tax increase.
But Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said the county was offering "falsehoods" and "propaganda," noting that residents would get the rebate regardless of whether a tax hike is enacted.
Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) said the legislative majority "will approve a budget that ensures services will be provided to our residents in an efficient and cost effective manner."Lawmakers from both parties have said they will strip out the tax hike and offer alternatives to replace the lost revenues.
Maragos said the long-term county debt now approaches $3.9 billion while the structural gap -- the difference between recurring revenue and expenses -- is expected to reach $141 million.Also, acting Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter testified that a reduced head count -- there are 400 fewer officers than in 2009 -- has caused overtime to spike. But Krumpter said OT should decline in the coming years as the department brings in new officers -- including a class of 198 to be sworn in next week -- under a new labor contract under which new hires start at lower pay and contribute to their health and pension costs.