Nassau Comptroller George Maragos testified Wednesday that County Executive Edward Mangano’s 2017 proposed budget has nearly $115 million in risky assumptions, including new fees that may not be approved, sluggish sales tax growth and understated police overtime expenses.
The GOP-controlled county legislature held its first hearing on Mangano’s $2.98 billion budget, which relies on $83 million in new or increased fees.
Maragos said in a statement the fees “will face considerable public opposition and fall well short of expectations.”
Other risks, Maragos said, include $15.5 million sales tax dollars that may not be realized and $22.1 million in labor costs, such as overtime and termination costs, that are underfunded in the budget.
“The 2017 proposed budget contains heightened risk of ending in a sizable deficit,” he said.
In total, Maragos found $114.6 million in risky revenue and expenses that could create a potential $134.1 million deficit using Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, which excludes borrowing to pay operating expenses.
Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin said Maragos “has consistently failed in his projections. Despite his forecast of a $185.1 million deficit for 2015, the county ended the year with a $56 million surplus.”
Maragos contends the 2015 surplus was achieved through $141.3 million in borrowing to pay for operating expenditures.
Maragos switched his party affiliation from GOP to Democrat last week and announced plans to run for county executive in 2017. Mangano, a Republican, has yet to indicate whether he will run for re-election.
Minority Democrats spent much of the hearing criticizing new fees in the budget.
For example, Mangano wants to tack a new $105 fee onto all traffic and parking tickets to raise $64 million next year to fund police department hires and cover rising officer salaries and overtime.
Eric Naughton, deputy county executive for finance, called the fees a “prudent policy decision” that can “be avoided by following the law.”
Acting Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter said the fees are needed to rebuild the size of the department. “For the last couple of years it’s been cut, cut, cut,” Krumpter said. “This budget does the opposite.”
Mangano’s budget also calls for more than two dozen new or increased fees on local businesses such as dog groomers and health clubs to raise another $1.7 million in revenue. Nassau would raise an additional $916,000 by hiking more than 80 Parks Department fees, including a round of golf at county courses, renting a cabana at Nickerson Beach and using local ice-skating rinks and swimming pools.
Democratic lawmakers filed legislation Wednesday to cap fee increases at two percent annually — matching the state’s two percent property tax cap.
At a news conference in Mineola, Democrats said the $83 million in new or increased fees in Mangano’s budget equate to a 9.4 percent tax hike.
“Nassau families are overburdened due to enormous tax bills and the high cost of living,” said Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport).
Majority Republicans have yet to indicate whether they support the fee increases. A spokeswoman for Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) declined to comment on the Democrat’s bill.
The police and business fees are expected to be discussed at an Oct. 12 budget hearing. Lawmakers could vote on the plan by Oct. 19.