Nassau County executive candidates Laura Curran and Jack Martins found common ground Monday, criticizing nearly $60 million in proposed fee hikes in County Executive Edward Mangano’s 2018 budget.
Mangano’s $2.99 billion spending plan, unveiled Friday, projects $35 million in new revenues from hiking the $55 surcharge on traffic tickets by an undetermined amount, and $13.6 million in increased real estate transaction fees.
Martins, a Republican, said he was “concerned” about an overreliance on fees, which have increased regularly during the Mangano administration, to balance the county budget.
“There’s only so many times you can increase fees without showing a more structured approach to balancing a budget,” said Martins, a former Mineola mayor and state senator. “That means recurring revenues need to meet recurring expenses.”
Curran, a second-term Democratic legislator from Baldwin, said fees should cover the cost of services and not be used by the county to turn a profit.
“It’s a result of irresponsible budgeting over many years,” said Curran, noting that increased fees to use golf courses and beaches, approved by the Legislature in 2016, are set to go into effect in 2018.“ It’s similar to just another tax increase.”
Mangano, a Republican who is not seeking re-election, said in a statement he was looking “forward to briefing both candidates on the 2018 budget this week.”
Mangano last year proposed a $105 “public safety fee” on traffic and parking violations. Legislators criticized the fee as excessive, cutting it to $55 for traffic tickets and killing it entirely for parking tickets.
Budget documents say the boost in the ticket fee would raise $35 million to “safeguard, facilitate and encourage the health, safety and welfare of the residents of the county.”
Mangano also wants to raise an additional $12 million by hiking, for the third consecutive year, the fee to access information on tax map parcels used in land document recording. The fee would increase from $355 to $455.
Also, $11.6 million in new revenues would come from hiking the Block fees for land recording transactions from $300 to $400. The fee, which was $10 in 2009, was last increased in 2015, from $150 to $300.
Curran and Martins expressed concern that increased real estate fees could discourage residents from purchasing new homes in the county.
The budget would hike, by 0.8 percent, the total property tax levy in order to fund the county’s sewer system. Mangano pinned the hike, which officials said would cost the average homeowner $10-15 annually, on the Legislature failing to approve his sewer privatization plan.
The candidates each declined to comment on the need for the tax hike until after their briefing with Mangano.
Both candidates said the county should consider a midyear budget, similar to one used by the state, that would remove election year politics from the calendar and allow the next executive to craft his or her own budget, rather than inherit their predecessor’s plan.
The county legislature must adopt the final 2018 budget by Oct. 31, a week before Election Day.
County Clerk Maureen O”Connell, a Republican running for a fourth term, will hold a news conference Tuesday with real estate and business leaders to oppose the fee increases.