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NIFA report: Nassau County could have $59 million deficit in 2019

NIFA chairman Adam Barsky, center, during a meeting

NIFA chairman Adam Barsky, center, during a meeting Tuesday at the Long Island Marriott in Uniondale. Credit: Danielle Silverman

The Nassau Interim Finance Authority warned Tuesday that Nassau could have a $59 million deficit next year, and that more than $70 million in revenue is at risk in the current budget.

But the $59.1 million estimate represents the lowest projected deficit since at least 2014, when the control board calculated that $91.7 million in that year’s proposed budget was at risk. NIFA chairman Adam Barsky said the county was more “conservative” in budgeting than in prior years.

The NIFA board approved the projections 6-0 at a board meeting Tuesday night in Uniondale. NIFA controls county finances.

NIFA executive director Evan Cohen said at the meeting that Nassau County Executive Laura Curran’s financial plan contains “significant risks.” He said the budget projections are “realistic, though not assured.”

NIFA officials also noted that the budget did not allocate funds for new labor costs the county would incur after renegotiating contracts with its major unions. Those contracts expired at the end of last year.

In a 29-page report, NIFA officials said Nassau County’s “financial outlook will remain unhealthy until the County’s Budget realistically ensures that the growth rate of recurring expenditures equals the growth rate of recurring revenues.”

The report noted that “other municipalities with fewer resources, such as Buffalo, Washington, D.C., and Detroit, have moved beyond the tight control of their oversight monitors and it seems incongruous that Nassau County, one of the wealthiest counties in the Country, is unable to do the same.”

The report identified risks including:

  • $11.6 million from fines and forfeitures, which includes $7.1 million in revenue from a boot-and-tow initiative. The county has proposed hiring a law firm to pursue car dealerships and financial institutions to pay delinquent traffic fees incurred by vehicle leaseholders. Curran, a Democrat, included the proposal in her 2018 spending plan and 2019 budget. County lawmakers debated the measure earlier this year, but tabled it. Republicans control the legislature with an 11-8 margin.
  • $10 million in revenue from Nassau Regional Off Track Betting Corp. for video lottery terminals at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens. NIFA officials say $10 million of the projected $20 million are at risk in next year’s budget. Earlier this year, Nassau County officials said Nassau OTB missed a key deadline to submit a $3 million payment, contributing to a deficit in last year’s county budget. OTB officials have said they believed the deadline was later in the year.
  • $8 million in county property sales.

Barsky said in an interview Tuesday that the biggest risk to the county’s budget is “what kind of damage the county legislature can do to this budget.”

He cited the possibility that lawmakers could fail to approve some of Curran’s revenue-generating proposals, add expenses without identifying resources to pay for them, vote to use surplus funds and make overly optimistic revenue projections in the budget.

Nassau budget director Andrew Persich said after the meeting that he thought the report was “pretty good.”

“Every budget has risks ... this is very low when you consider it,” he said.

Nassau budget report

According to a report approved Tuesday night by the Nassau Interim Finance Authority:

  • $70 million in Nassau County revenue are at risk in the current budget for 2018.
  • The county faces a $59 million deficit in the 2019 budget.

Risky revenue includes:

  • $11.6 million from fines and forfeitures
  • $10 million from Nassau OTB for video lottery terminals at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens.

Source: Nassau Interim Finance Authority

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