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NIFA OKs Mangano budget, but with a warning

Ronald A. Stack, along with the rest of

Ronald A. Stack, along with the rest of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, voted on the county's 2013 budget and capital spending for superstorm Sandy in Uniondale. (Nov. 29, 2012) Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

A state control board Thursday night approved Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano's $2.8 billion 2013 budget, and $192 million in emergency borrowing for repairs stemming from superstorm Sandy.

But the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, which unanimously approved the budget at a meeting in Uniondale, warned that the spending plan contains $48 million in risky revenues and spending projections.

The 2013 spending plan, which holds property taxes steady, passed the GOP-controlled county legislature earlier this month.

NIFA officials expressed concern that Nassau had not budgeted enough for property tax refunds, police termination pay or Sandy costs that may not be reimbursed by the state or federal government.

But Deputy County Executive for Finance Tim Sullivan said the budget "has the lowest level of risk in many years. We are confident in our ability to manage the budget."

The 2013 budget calls for spending cuts for departments serving youth, seniors and the disabled, and fee increases for some small-business owners and users of county parks. Departments that would receive increases include Housing and Community Development.

NIFA also voted to approve a $230 million capital borrowing, including $192 million to repair county roads, parks and sewage treatment plants damaged in the storm.

NIFA chairman Ronald Stack said Nassau "should go get these projects done. Go help the people and do not let technicalities stand in the way."

The bonding was approved under the condition that the funding be used only for Sandy-related purposes and that federal and state reimbursements go toward repayment of the debt. Nassau plans to issue bonds to pay for the projects and then seek reimbursement from the federal and state governments.

The capital borrowing also includes $20.6 million for the sewer and stormwater fund; $16.8 million for pre-Sandy capital projects; and $2.1 for court judgments.

The board also passed a resolution ordering County Attorney John Ciampoli not to proceed with his plan to sell as much as $21 million in property tax refunds to private investors without first seeking NIFA approval. The firm, RPTF of Uniondale, would pay taxpayers the full amount due with interest, while Nassau would repay RPTF over seven years at 5.95 percent interest. Taxpayers also could continue to wait for Nassau to pay their overdue refunds directly.

Ciampoli argued at a public meeting Wednesday that his plan was not borrowing and did not require the board's approval.

"Of course it's debt," NIFA board member Chris Wright said Thursday. "It's always debt if it's paid over time."

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