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NIFA to Nassau County: Cut 2017 deficit by $40 million

Adam Barsky, chairman of the Nassau Interim Finance

Adam Barsky, chairman of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, speaks with reporters on June 30, 2016. Photo Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Nassau County’s financial control board passed a resolution Thursday that requires County Executive Edward Mangano and legislators to cut spending and raise revenue to shrink 2017’s projected deficit from $100 million to $60 million.

The Nassau Interim Finance Authority Board projects the county’s deficit will continue to grow under Mangano’s budget in 2017 and beyond, according to a NIFA staff budget review.

“We’re concerned about that trend,” Chairman Adam Barsky said in an interview. “There’s a $40 million problem they have to solve.”

If the budget gap isn’t closed, NIFA has the authority to impose cuts, Barsky said.

The resolution was passed 5-0. Members Paul Annunziato and Lester Petracca were not present.

Mangano submitted a nearly $3 billion budget in September that he said was balanced. Proposals included $88 million in new fees and $60 million in borrowing to cover property tax refunds.

A NIFA staff report released Thursday said Mangano’s budget relied on as much as $217 million in “risky” assumptions, including a $12 million reduction in police overtime compared with 2016 and fees that require legislative approval.

The report said that even if all of Mangano’s budget assumptions are correct and county lawmakers approve all his initiatives, the deficit would still be $99.5 million, as calculated under generally accepted accounting principals, which bar Nassau from counting borrowed money as revenue.

Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin said he’d reserve comment until the county could review the report.

Barsky noted that lawmakers have rejected budget-saving ideas from Mangano and the administration has been slow to aggressively reduce the size of the deficit.

“There needs to be a sense of urgency. The problem we have on our end is we don’t get the sense all the stakeholders understand the severity of the problems or even that there is a problem,” he said.

NIFA member John Buran said, “We’re at our wits end at this point. We really need to increase revenue or cut expenses.”

The staff report acknowledged the county “has made notable progress in realigning its finances in recent years” by reducing the workforce and increasing its revenue streams and noted that the legislature has rejected some of Mangano’s proposals, like a property tax hike last year. But member Howard S. Weitzman said he disagreed with placing the blame on one side over the other.

“This clearly attempts to put NIFA on the side of the county executive instead of the legislature,” he said. “There’s plenty of blame to go around.”

Barsky said NIFA had consistently put “the blame on all those responsible, including the county executive and legislature and state legislature.”

A spokeswoman for Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) declined to comment on the budget and said it was still under review. The Legislature has until Oct. 31 to pass the budget.

The NIFA report flagged other potential holes in the budget including:

n $3 million in video lottery terminal revenue from machines slated for installation at Aqueduct Racetrack. There’s still no binding agreement between Nassau Off-Track Regional Betting Corp. and the county for revenue from the 1,000 slot machine-like games.

n $10 million in overly optimistic sales tax revenue.

n $5.1 million from selling county property.

n $20.2 million that wasn’t budgeted for lawsuit settlements and judgments

The NIFA report notes possible legislative resistance to the proposed $105 fee on traffic and parking violations, which would raise $65 million.

Legislative Democrats have said they oppose the fee hike, although Republicans, who hold a 12-6 majority, still have not taken a position on it.

The NIFA report doesn’t offer any recommendations for closing the $40 million gap, although it notes raising property taxes to the amount allowed by the state cap would raise $22.9 million.

Without changes to current spending and revenue, Nassau’s budget deficit is projected to rise from $217 million in 2017 to $267 million in 2018, $289 million in 2019 and $307 million in 2020, the report said.


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