Students walk through the campus of Nassau Community College in...

Students walk through the campus of Nassau Community College in Garden City. (April 28, 2011) Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau Community College made its first public pitch Monday for a $213 million budget from the county, which includes a tuition increase of $98.

"With this increase, the annual tuition would be $4,008 . . . [compared with] Suffolk County College . . . [at] $4,140," Nassau's Acting President Kenneth Saunders said in a prepared speech that he had planned to give to two county legislative committees -- Rules and Finance.

After Saunders got to the podium, Finance chairman Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) told him he did not have to give his speech, but could shorten it or save it for later. Saunders opted for later.

A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for July 15 and could be followed by a vote of the full legislature.

In his prepared remarks, Saunders said that because of substantial cuts in state aid since 2010, static funding from the county and mandated cost increases, the school had to dip into its fund balance for $4.9 million for this budget, leaving only $9.4 million. That's only a little more than $100,000 over the trustees' requirement that the balance be no lower than 4 percent of the previous year's budget, he said.

In other action, the two committees unanimously passed a capital project borrowing proposal for $722 million for sewage and stormwater plans. It was clear though that Democrats -- votes from at least three of whom are needed -- are reluctant to back it.

"I just can't believe that we should borrow $722 million in one shot," said Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport). "We have never borrowed [or authorized borrowing for] this kind of money before."

Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves, (R-East Meadow), responded: "We've never had a superstorm Sandy before, either."

Deputy Commissioner of Public Works Richard Millet said the project could take up to five years, and that if authorization for the full amount was not there, no first-rate company would want to be involved. "We'd end up with subpar contractors," he added.

He also said that 90 percent of at least $593 million attributable to Sandy should be federally reimbursed.

Abrahams said that's "not guaranteed," and moreover, "we would be giving up our authority . . . you want us to give up the only . . . [leverage] we have."

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