Watchdogs express concerns over Nassau's borrowing
Members of a state fiscal monitoring board Wednesday expressed concerns about the high level of borrowing planned by Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano to help close multimillion-dollar budget gaps this year and next, according to sources who attended the private meeting.
Ronald Stack, chairman of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, instructed elected officials and staff at the closed-door meeting not to talk to Newsday about the substance of the discussion, according to three sources.
However, sources say Stack warned Mangano that the seven-member NIFA board could not support borrowing to pay employee termination costs and tax refunds. Mangano recently received authorization from the county legislature to borrow $86 million to pay employee termination costs, and may request more to finance an early retirement program.
At the NIFA meeting Mangano explained his recently approved reassessment reform legislation, which is intended to cut the cost of commercial property tax challenges by settling protests before tax refunds are due. More than 80 percent of the $100 million in tax refunds paid by Nassau each year goes to commercial property owners.
The county executive said he is not budgeting any savings from the reforms this year but hopes to save $20 million next year. In his proposed spending plan for this year and next, Mangano had said he expected assessment reform to help close $25 million of this year's estimated $130-million budget gap, but that would come from borrowing, not savings. Next year, he said, assessment reforms would close $91.6 million of a projected $286.5-million budget gap. But $80 million of that would come from borrowing.
County Comptroller George Maragos, who attended the session, said it was a "positive" meeting but would not elaborate.
Although Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt (R-Massapequa) this week called for Stack to resign from NIFA because he works for the same bank where the county keeps its operating accounts, the issue did not come up at the meeting, sources said.