Nassau County Executive Laura Curran announced a $3.5 billion county budget for 2022 that includes a $70 million cut in county property taxes that would save the owner of a $500,000 home an average of about $140 a year.
Curran, a Democrat seeking reelection in November, on Wednesday will file a 2022 spending plan that reduces the amount Nassau collects in taxes from residential and commercial property owners by a total of $70 million, and $150 million over a four-year period.
The budget also would boost public safety spending by $45 million, adding 70 positions to the police and probation departments, the sheriff’s office and other law enforcement agencies.
Overall, county spending would rise from $3.3 billion in 2021 to $3.5 billion next year.
In explaining her ability to propose a tax cut, Curran cited the county's improved fiscal position resulting in part from refinancing of county debt.
"We're in this position now where we can actually give relief to taxpayers," Curran told Newsday in an interview Tuesday.
Curran will file her budget with the county legislature on Wednesday, county spokeswoman Christine Geed said.
The budget is due by Sept. 15 under a deadline in the county charter.
The Nassau County Legislature, led by Republicans, will have to approve the final budget.
The 2022 budget is "not relying on gimmicks, not relying on one-offs, one-off initiatives," Curran said.
"It’s really a comprehensive plan, a strategic plan where we can give relief and keep our county finances sound," she said.
In comments about the budget proposal, Republicans on Tuesday said they already have taken the lead in providing tax relief.
Chris Boyle, a spokesman for majority Republican legislators, cited the tax increases stemming from reassessment and called on Curran to approve bills, passed by legislative committees Monday, to repeal steep traffic and real estate fees.
In a statement, Boyle said Curran oversaw a "botched" reassessment that resulted "in tax increases for 65% of property owners," while Republicans have "proposed rolling back almost $100 million in government fees."
Under reassessment, 65% of homeowners saw school tax bill increases, while 35% saw reductions in 2021-22, according to county data.
In 2018, both Republican and Democratic lawmakers approved contracts to begin the reassessment process.
Last year, legislators from both parties voted to approve the 2020-21 tax roll.
Republican Hempstead Town Council member Bruce Blakeman, who is challenging Curran for county executive, said Tuesday he would use the county's 2021 surplus to cut taxes even more.
"My plan cuts taxes by $120 million in a single year — $58 million more than her plan — while stopping Curran's massive reassessment tax hikes which will continue for four more years under her phase-in," Blakeman said.
Under reassessment, a "phase-in" exemption spreads tax hikes over five years, after which property owners will be assessed at market value.
The $70 million in proposed tax cuts would affect Nassau's five major operating funds.
The refinancing of county debt "reaped us significant savings for our budget, for our taxpayers," Curran told Newsday.
Raymond Orlando, deputy county executive for finance, said the county expects to save $150 million in 2022 through refinancing.
The county legislature last year allowed the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, a state board that controls county finances, to refinance more than $1.1 billion in county and NIFA debt.
Majority Republicans held up the refinancing deal for most of 2020, concerned that extension of debt payments would prolong NIFA's existence.
GOP members dropped their opposition last December and gave the control board authority to refinance county debt.
The deal produced $435 million in savings in 2020, 2021 and 2022.
Nassau also will receive a total of $385 million in federal pandemic aid in 2021 and 2022 from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
Last year, Nassau received $102.9 million in federal aid from the $2 trillion coronavirus economic stimulus bill known as the CARES Act.
Orlando also cited improved economic conditions that have boosted county revenues, including from sales tax.
"People are driving again, so there's maybe a little more red-light camera revenue; people are purchasing more things, so maybe there's a little more revenue in other areas," Orlando said.
In the interview with Newsday, Curran also criticized Republican-backed bills to eliminate or sharply reduce certain county fees that are expected to generate $100 million in revenues this year.
The $100 million in fee revenues are included in the 2022 budget, Curran said.
Committees voted Monday to eliminate the $355 tax map verification fee used to verify a property's section, block and lot, and a $55 public safety fee added to most traffic violations.
The committees also voted to reduce the fee for recording mortgages, from $300 to $50.
"I would call that irresponsible legislation proposed yesterday, to haphazardly cut fees," Curran told Newsday.
Asked if she would veto the fee cuts, Curran said it was "premature to say anything."
Under the budget, Nassau in 2022 and 2023 also would make pension payments that were deferred over the past decade.
Officials said Nassau would make a $155 million payment in 2022 and a $40 million payment in 2023.
The county owes a total of $195 million in deferred pension contributions for county workers.
The state began allowing counties to make the deferrals to help them cope with the effects of the 2008 recession.
Legislative Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said in a statement his caucus was, "encouraged by the County Executive's vision for delivering long-term, reoccurring tax relief to residents."
Abrahams said Democrats would "closely review Curran's budget proposal to ensure that the needs of Nassau taxpayers will be met in the most optimal and efficient manner possible."
2022 NASSAU COUNTY BUDGET PROPOSAL
Total spending: $3.5 billion, compared with $3.3 billion this year.
Property taxes: $70 million cut that would save the owner of a home assessed at $500,000 an average of about $140 a year.
Spending initiatives: Boosts public safety spending by $45 million, adding 70 positions in police and probation departments, the county sheriff’s office and other public safety agencies
Source: Nassau County executive