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Laura Curran files $3.075 billion Nassau budget for 2019

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, seen May 22,

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, seen May 22, has ordered a "comprehensive assessment of traffic information," a county spokesman said Tuesday. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran on Monday submitted a $3.075 billion budget for 2019 that calls for $31 million in new police spending, the hiring of about 100 employees to boost staffing levels to fix the county’s beleaguered assessment system but no new property tax increase, officials said.

Curran's budget proposal, her first, also would fund a new crime lab and improve access to the county's parks.

However, the budget does not allocate money to cover possible new agreements with the county's five major unions. Their collective bargaining agreements expired at the end of 2017, and new deals have not been struck.

Administration officials said they were eyeing alternative revenue sources in case the contracts are approved next year.

“It’s a tough budget. It’s a bare-bones budget,” said Curran, a Democrat who took office Jan. 1.

Curran's budget proposal arrives as the administration is struggling to plug budget deficits and skirmishing with the GOP-controlled county legislature over ways to raise more revenue. The Nassau Interim Finance Authority in July identified $81 million in revenue risks in the current year's budget.

The 2019 budget, which must be approved by the legislature, would add 171 employees, bringing the county workforce to 7,658 members.

Police department spending would rise by $31 million, including $14 million for contractual, step wage increases, and $6 million for termination pay for retiring officers.

The budget also relies on revenue sources that have not materialized in the past, and initiatives that have failed to gain traction in the legislature.

Curran budgets payments totaling $20 million from Nassau Regional OTB from video lottery terminal revenue at Resorts World Casino at the Aqueduct Racetrack.

The county and the OTB earlier this year disagreed both about how much was owed in 2018 and when the money was due, leaving the county with a $12.8 million shortfall.

The budget also presumes more than $8 million in revenue from a proposed contract with a law firm to collect fees owed by drivers from the car dealerships or financial institutions that own the vehicles, and allowing law enforcement officers to boot and tow cars with moving violations, such as speeding.

Sewer district fees for residents would rise by a total of $5 million in 2019, or about 2 percent per household, county officials said.

David Chauvin, spokesman for NIFA, the county's financial control board, said the Curran administration briefed NIFA staff on the budget Monday.

"Given our continual dialogue over the last several months, there were no major surprises in what was presented," Chauvin said. "NIFA looks forward to reviewing a final document at the conclusion of the budget process."

Frank Moroney, a spokesman for the county legislature's GOP majority, said the caucus would "do a complete review of the budget before we will comment on the specifics."

Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said Democrats would review the budget.

But "the fact that there's a no-tax-increase budget shows she’s listening to taxpayers and legislators alike," Abrahams said of Curran.

Curran said that although the 2019 spending plan includes no money for new union agreements, “we are working hard to develop funding sources for the collective bargaining, and the increases to our employees that will entail.”

She said the county is lobbying state lawmakers to pass revenue-generators including legalized sports betting and a requirement that online retailers such as Amazon and eBay collect sales tax on products sold to New Yorkers.

Meanwhile, the budget includes $2 million for new signage, improved pathways and parking to public access to county-owned land.

A Newsday series in July showed that many county-owned parcels were closed to the public after Nassau purchased them using $100 million from the county’s environmental bond acts of 2004 and 2006.

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