Nassau County is projected to finish 2019 $66.7 million under budget on personnel costs due to salary savings and the ripple effects from a smaller workforce, according to the county comptroller's midyear report released Thursday.
Even after increases in overtime are factored into the analysis, the county's overall health care and pension costs have been reduced and have created the projected savings through the rest of 2019.
According to county Comptroller Jack Schnirman, Nassau is expected to finish 2019 with a $4.6 million deficit in its primary operating funds compared with a $27.5 million deficit at the end of 2018.
“Our report and analysis show the county’s budget performance is projected to improve throughout the rest of 2019," Schnirman said in a statement. "As we said when we released the 2018 numbers, however, we must carefully monitor the factors that led to that improvement to determine if they are sustainable."
The county's operating budget is about $3 billion, of which about 1/3 is spent on workforce costs.
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran spokeswoman Christine Geed said the comptroller's findings on personnel savings differ from the monthly report released for June by the county's Office of Management and Budget, which showed a savings of $23.1 million in salaries and $8.9 million in fringe benefits from staffing vacancies and attrition.
"Although there are savings from the vacant positions in Nassau County, there are also offsetting expense increases which these savings are needed to cover. However, the administration anticipates that additional staff, and corresponding expenses, will be added throughout the year," Geed said.
Jerry Laricchiuta, president of the CSEA, the county's largest public employee union, balked at the projected savings and said it "results in fewer services for the taxpayers."
“A small workforce — which we have been fighting against for years now — makes it impossible to render the same services we had before. So what they are telling the residents is that your taxes aren’t going down, some of them are going up, but I’m saving $66 million in my budget,” Laricchiuta said.
The largest financial risk identified in the report is $17 million in missing budgeted revenues from the Nassau Off Track Betting Corp. Schnirman's report indicated his office would look more closely into the OTB payment schedule.
When asked about the OTB contract, Geed said: "Nassau County has had productive communications with Nassau OTB on the payments owed to the county. Nassau OTB has indicated they intend to make quarterly payments of monies owed beginning Aug. 15, 2019."