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NIFA weighs options for Nassau spending cuts

NIFA chairman Adam Barsky at the board meeting

NIFA chairman Adam Barsky at the board meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017, in Uniondale. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau’s financial control board could impose millions of dollars in spending cuts to the county’s 2018 budget when it meets next week, affecting everything from agency budgets to contracts and equipment purchases, officials said Tuesday.

The Nassau Interim Finance Authority will meet Dec. 7 in Uniondale to consider — for the first time in its 17-year history — forcing its own changes to the county’s budget.

On Monday, the GOP-controlled county Legislature sent a letter to NIFA, proposing $31.5 million in cuts and revenue enhancements to balance next year’s budget.

But NIFA chairman Adam Barsky said the seven-member control board could reject up to $15 million in proposals offered by lawmakers because of faulty assumptions about new revenue and expense savings.

Barsky said more than $60 million in other alternatives offered by the legislature’s GOP majority also were inadequate.

“The NIFA board is currently deliberating and will comment further once a consensus is reached among the directors,” board spokesman David Chauvin said Tuesday.

“There is a willingness on the part of NIFA to make the necessary cuts the legislature refuses to make,” said board member Howard Weitzman, a former Democratic Nassau comptroller.

Weitzman said he expected the board to target the budget area called “other than personal services,” which includes equipment, supplies, general expenses and contracts.

Also under consideration, a source said, is an across-the-board cut in departmental spending.

NIFA cannot raise taxes or fees, nor can it explicitly order layoffs of county employees.

“I think everyone can reasonably agree that there is a shortfall,” said NIFA member Chris Wright. “The amount of the shortfall, and agreeing on that amount with at least a majority of the NIFA board, is the present short-term issue. That will drive whether and where to target, and how broadly or specifically to do so.”

The board also could punt and allow County Executive-elect Laura Curran to pick areas to cut after taking office on Jan. 1, Weitzman said.

“While I am disappointed, as county executive I will work with NIFA, as well as my colleagues in the legislature, to bring real fiscal discipline to Nassau and get our financial house in order,” said Curran, a Democratic legislator from Baldwin, in a statement.

Any budget amendments imposed by the board will not need legislative approval.

Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) blamed NIFA for not accepting their proposal.

“NIFA has disallowed over $60 million in contingency revenue sources that we proposed and that municipalities around the state routinely use to balance their budgets, creating a budget crisis that does not exist in reality, but allows NIFA to unfairly continue its control of county finances,” she said.

The NIFA board will hold a conference call Wednesday to discuss the budget.

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