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NIFA seeks consultant to advise on possible Nassau budget cuts

Nassau’s financial control board is looking for a consultant to determine spending that could be cut immediately if County Executive Edward Mangano and the county legislature do not close a projected $106 million budget gap by the end of the year.

The Nassau Interim Finance Authority last week issued a request for proposals to hire a consulting firm to review Nassau’s budget and multiyear financial plan. The consultant would make recommendations by May 31 for “immediate financial savings” if the county does not fix the “structural imbalance” between recurring revenue and expenses by 2018.

“If NIFA finds that sufficient progress toward that goal is not being met by the county it wants to be prepared to impose new gap-closing initiatives,” the RFP says. “These would be in the form of reduced expenditures, which can be implemented immediately without legislative actions or delays caused by existing labor contracts or law.”

NIFA has projected that this year’s budget has a $106 million deficit, based on generally accepted accounting principles, which do not allow the proceeds from borrowing to be counted as revenue toward operating expenses. NIFA staff projects the deficit will grow to $191 million by 2018, without significant spending cuts or revenue increases.

Responses to the RFP are due Feb. 13.

The firm is expected to work with Mark Page, a former New York City budget director whom NIFA hired as financial consultant in 2015.

NIFA in the past has threatened to make spending cuts if the county did not pare expenses on its own, but NIFA officials say they want a clearer picture of the control board’s authority.

“We feel that we need some expert resources to assist us in working with the county to identify a series of cuts that may be needed should the need arise,” NIFA chairman Adam Barsky said Monday. “We do think expenses will have to be cut very severely [for 2018] and we want to be prepared.”

He said the consultant should give NIFA and Nassau new alternatives or if necessary point to “where NIFA has to impose its own cuts.”

Mangano said in a statement, “We always welcome thoughtful ideas that save taxpayer dollars.”

The NIFA board initially rejected this year’s $2.9 billion budget after the legislature slashed a proposed $105 fee on traffic and parking tickets to $55, eliminating $36 million in expected revenue.

GOP legislators had planned to fill that shortfall with revenue from a program to collect penalties from businesses that had not complied with a 2013 law requiring them to report their income and expenses.

But NIFA rejected the plan because the law has been under court challenge since it was enacted. On Monday, a state court temporarily halted collection of the penalties after hundreds of businesses filed lawsuits charging the fines were excessive and illegal.

In December, NIFA approved the budget after Mangano proposed $21 million in spending cuts and the county legislature passed a hike in fees for verifying tax maps during real estate transactions. The changes reduced the projected GAAP deficit from $142 million to $106 million.

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