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NIFA could determine referendum funding

A state fiscal watchdog could hold the key to whether there's money to hold an Aug. 1 referendum to authorize borrowing for a new Nassau Coliseum, election officials said Tuesday.

The vote, which would allow the county to borrow up to $400 million for the construction of a new hockey arena and minor league ballpark, could require new contracts, which NIFA would have to approve.

The election could cost between $1.6 million and $2.2 million to stage, according to a statement from the county's Office of Legislative Budget Review.

Both the Republican and Democratic county election commissioners said Tuesday that new contracts, particularly for trucking, could require NIFA approval. The Nassau Interim Finance Authority, the county's control board, has authority over any contract more than $50,000.

"This local law will not have a fiscal impact provided the referendum is held on Election Day," the budget review office said. "However, if the referendum is held on any day other than Election Day, the county will incur personnel and equipment costs."

But Brian Nevin, a spokesman for County Executive Edward Mangano, said it would be "shocking if NIFA chose to overrule the power of our residents and that of the State Legislature by attempting to block the democratic process."

If the election uses lever voting machines, a new trucking contract, likely valued at more than $100,000, would be required, according to Board of Elections Republican Commissioner Louis Savinetti. The county has asked the State Legislature to allow the use of lever machines for the special vote to hold down costs.

If electronic voting machines are used, a contract exists, but more money would have to allocated, said William Biamonte, the Democratic elections commissioner.

Islanders owner Charles Wang has offered to pay for the election, but only if the borrowing ultimately wins approval.

NIFA officials refused to comment Tuesday. NIFA members have expressed concern over the borrowing plan; the authority will have ultimate approval over the bonding itself.

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