The Nassau County Legislature voted Wednesday to hike real estate fees by nearly 60 percent to raise $15 million to help close a hole in the 2017 county budget.
The fee hikes, along with $21 million in expenses already cut from the budget, are meant to satisfy the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, the county’s fiscal control board, which was expected to approve the 2017 budget last night.
NIFA last month rejected Mangano’s $2.9 billion budget, citing a $36 million gap that opened when lawmakers reduced a new fee on traffic tickets from $105 to $55 and eliminated it entirely on parking tickets. The board then ordered the county to make $36 million in spending cuts or revenue increases.
In a party-line vote, the GOP-controlled legislature voted 11-7 to increase the fee to verify tax maps on most real estate transactions, from $225 to $355. The fee was also increased in the 2016 budget from $75 to $225.
“Nobody likes talking about fee increases,” said Legis. Steve Rhoads (R-Bellmore), noting that revenue from the hike would preserve funding for youth programs and volunteer firefighter training. “But we have a responsibility to protect public safety and youth services.”
Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said the “fee increase is terrible for Nassau taxpayers,” arguing the county should save money by reducing spending on outside legal counsel.
Alan Kennemer, representing the Long Island Builders Institute, said the fee increase “punishes people for their dream of homeownership.”
The 2017 budget also will cut spending on utilities and equipment and delay borrowing for capital projects.
Also Wednesday, the legislature’s Rules Committee voted along party lines to allow Nassau to bid at a Jan. 10 auction to purchase the Morrelly Homeland Security Center in Bethpage.
New York Commercial Bank foreclosed on the building after the property owner, the nonprofit Applied Science Center of Innovation and Excellence in Homeland Security Research, defaulted on its mortgage loan.
The Office of Emergency Management leases 5,200 square feet on the first floor while OEM and the Nassau police department occupy 1,900 square feet on the second floor.
Nassau officials declined to discuss how much the county would bid on the building. The county’s lease with Applied Sciences, which expires in 2020, would terminate with the building sale, said Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin.
County officials said relocating OEM to a new space would take at least nine months, and result in substantial relocation costs and the purchase or lease of a substitute property.
“The building is uniquely built out to meet emergency management and security needs,” Nevin said.
The measure requires a vote of the full legislature, which is not scheduled to meet until January.