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NIFA projects $122M budget gap for Nassau in '14

A meeting of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority

A meeting of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority in Uniondale. (Oct. 9, 2013) Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Nassau County faces a projected budget deficit of $122 million next year and likely will experience larger than projected budget gaps through 2017, the county's financial control board said in its first analysis of County Executive Edward Mangano's 2014 budget.

Evan L. Cohen, executive director of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, said at a meeting in Uniondale Wednesday night that in terms of recurring revenue and expenses, Nassau "remains out of balance in amounts which would necessitate" continuation of the state control board.

While county Comptroller George Maragos projected in June that Nassau would end 2013 with a $5.6 million surplus, NIFA said Wednesday that the county likely will end the year with a $100 million budget gap.

The meeting was the first since Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo appointed former North Hempstead Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman as chairman of the board, replacing longtime chairman Ronald Stack.

Cuomo also appointed Paul Annunziato, a vice president at Morgan Stanley, and Lester Petracca, president of Triangle Equities, to fill two vacancies on the seven-member board.

Nassau owes about $300 million in tax refunds to property owners who have successfully protested their tax assessments, and Cohen said the Mangano administration "must acknowledge that it must find funding alternatives" to borrowing to pay the refunds.

NIFA board member George Marlin criticized the administration's proposed 2014-2017 financial plan, saying the county continues to rely too heavily on borrowing for tax settlements.

"A control period and a wage freeze are draconian measures that a locality should wish to avoid, and if it occurs climb out of as quickly as possibly," Marlin said. "The leadership of the county was elected to lead and to govern and not to absolve itself of responsibility by blaming NIFA."

The NIFA analysis did not factor in how a proposed contract agreement with the Police Benevolent Association, the county's largest police union, would impact Nassau's finances. The contract, proposed last month, would end NIFA's freeze on county wages and create new salary structures for new hires.

The NIFA report said that "while we have not yet completed our analysis, it appears the agreement would throw the proposed plan further out of balance. Obviously, the other county unions will want similar concessions, which would exacerbate the imbalance."

PBA president James Carver said after the meeting he looked "forward to continue sitting down with NIFA to discuss what's in the [contract] agreement."

Speaking about the NIFA budget analysis, Kaiman said "we will continue to keep an open mind to what it says, and how other factors can change it."

Deputy County Executive Tim Sullivan said, "We thank NIFA for recognizing the cost-cutting measures this administration has taken . . . ," and noted that the 2014 spending plan represents Mangano's "fourth no-tax-hike budget."

The board also discussed the county's lease agreement with Brooklyn developer Bruce Ratner to renovate the Nassau Coliseum. Ratner's $229 million proposed revamp of the arena does not require county funding and does not need NIFA approval, board counsel Jeremy Wise said.

CORRECTION:  A previous version of this story misstated Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos' projection of the county budget surplus for 2013.

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