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NIFA receives Nassau’s modified 2018 budget — with a warning

Authority tells County Executive Laura Curran members could revisit the fiscal plan and request additional actions if feared risks become reality.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran on March 28,

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran on March 28, 2018. Photo Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

The Nassau Interim Finance Authority acknowledged receipt of County Executive Laura Curran’s modified 2018 budget at its meeting Tuesday night, but warned of budget risks that could result in a $104.7 million deficit.

In a rare move, Curran appeared before the board at its Tuesday night meeting and spoke of a spending plan with $54.7 million in projected savings and revenue.

Curran said she was “looking forward to a good relationship going forward” with NIFA. “You have seen the budget that we have given to you and [I’m] hoping that you find it acceptable,” she told authority members, “and of course we are open to conversation and flexibility.”

In response, NIFA chairman Adam Barsky told Curran “the fact that you’re taking the matters of the county’s fiscal health as a top priority, we do recognize that and appreciate it.”

Curran, a Democrat who took office Jan. 1, was required to show how the county would manage after NIFA, a state board controlling the county’s finances, cut $18 million from Nassau’s $3 billion budget in December. Also in December, NIFA officials said the budget contained $101.4 million in risks.

The county executive submitted the modified budget proposal on March 15.

NIFA officials expressed concern Tuesday night about whether estimated new revenue from fee hikes, auctioning of seized vehicles and other initiatives were realistic and would get the necessary legislative approvals.

NIFA executive director Evan Cohen said he recognized Curran was in a “conundrum” politically. The Republican majority in the legislature has opposed her plans for fee hikes.

Curran’s effort to end fee-waivers for nonprofits last month led the county legislature to unanimously pass a law exempting youth, charity and senior teams from parks fees.

“It’s currently unclear where compromise can be found,” Cohen said.

Curran’s administration deserves “a lot of credit for putting together a plan that looked to add some revenue,” Barsky said in an interview Tuesday. “Obviously we’d like to see more, and also expense reductions beyond what has already been done.”

County spokesman Mike Martino said in a statement: “It is a viable operating budget except for the risks associated with the overwhelming cost of commercial and residential claims for tax overpayment. Once again, it is clear that the county’s poor fiscal health is intertwined with the broken assessment system and the failed tax policies of the previous administration,” referring to former County Executive Edward Mangano.

Cohen said that of the $104.7 million at risk, $66 million accounts for concerns about legislative approvals and whether new initiatives can be implemented. About $39 million is earmarked as a risk because of disparities in projections between NIFA officials and the county.

Also Tuesday, the county’s Office of Legislative Budget Review released a report stating that Curran’s projected savings and revenue include $28 million in risk.

“We’re always going to have a realm of risks,” Barsky said, adding the authority reserves the right to revisit Curran’s new proposed budget later this year.

“If we start seeing midyear that these risks are becoming more of a reality, we may require them to take some actions to offset that,” Barsky said of county officials. “Right now, it’s a warning sign and we’re going to monitor the year as it goes on . . . it’s a little too early to tell.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated NIFA’s actions with regard to Nassau County’s modified 2018 budget.

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