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Nassau delays closing 2011 books

Nassau Comptroller George Maragos. (March 28, 2011)

Nassau Comptroller George Maragos. (March 28, 2011) Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau County has delayed closing its books on 2011 until July 31 at the same time officials are scrambling to eliminate a budget deficit of more than $40 million.

Outside auditors had been expected to complete their examination of Nassau's finances by June 30 -- as they have for at least the past 10 years.

But Comptroller George Maragos needed a 30-day extension because of "special circumstances," according to Chief Deputy Frank Moroney.

"As a result of a change in outside consultants this year, we still need additional time to properly reconcile certain balances," Moroney said in a statement.

Brian Nevin, spokesman for County Executive Edward Mangano, said in an email that the delay does not put off any spending cuts that Mangano has announced to deal with the budget hole.

"I believe the comptroller asked for this extension due to a technical recalculation that needs to be made. It has nothing to do with the $41 million," Nevin said.

The administration has repeatedly told the county legislature that Nassau needs to pay $41 million in court-ordered property tax refunds to avoid ending 2011 in the red, which would jeopardize the county's credit rating.

But the 10-member Republican legislative majority has not been able to persuade Democrats to give them the three additional votes necessary to authorize borrowing. Democrats have said they need a fair legislative redistricting process first; a Republican map adopted last year moves three Democratic incumbents out of their districts.

The Republican majority last month voted to allow Mangano to unilaterally cut $41 million by furloughing county employees, reducing contractual union benefits, closing agencies and selling property. County unions have challenged the law in federal court.

Mangano also announced he would eliminate $4 million in funding for youth service agencies by next week if Democrats did not vote to borrow. This week, he threatened additional layoffs to help balance the books.

Budget officials told lawmakers that $43 million already has been transferred from 2012 reserves to fill last year's gap. However, the transfer depletes Nassau's $92 million rainy-day fund. That could trigger a credit downgrade by Wall Street rating agencies, the officials said.

The legislature's independent Office of Budget Review on Wednesday indicated that last year's gap has climbed to $50 million because of a miscalculation of reimbursements from the county sewer authority.

"I don't think another 30 days will change the fact that due to continued mismanagement this administration will end 2011 with a significant deficit," said Michael Florio, spokesman for legislative Democrats.

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