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Long IslandPolitics

Nassau fiscal control board orders $18M in sweeping budget cuts

“This shows we are serious and not bluffing,” NIFA Chairman Adam Barsky said. “We will do what needs to be done to balance the budget.”

Paul D. Annunziato speaks during a Nassau County

Paul D. Annunziato speaks during a Nassau County Interim Finance Authority (NIFA) meeting at the Marriott Long Island Hotel and Conference Center, in Uniondale on Dec. 7, 2017. Photo Credit: Jeffrey Basinger

Nassau’s fiscal control board approved the county’s 2018 budget Thursday night after ordering $18 million in spending cuts to all departments, solidifying its enhanced role in the budget process.

The vote came as the Nassau Interim Finance Authority imposed sweeping budget cuts this week for the first time in its 17-year history. In previous years, NIFA requested expense reductions or revenue increases but left it to elected officials to pick which areas to cut.

NIFA Chairman Adam Barsky said the GOP-controlled Legislature failed to offer recurring expense cuts or revenue increases to balance the budget, leaving it with “no choice” but to impose its own changes.

“This shows we are serious and not bluffing,” Barsky said. “We will do what needs to be done to balance the budget.”

NIFA member Paul Annunziato said “the budget is, and will be balanced in 2018.”

Eric Naughton, deputy county executive for finance, said he hopes “the new administration will be able to provide the necessary services within the confines of the budget that residents have come to expect.”

The NIFA directive amounts to a 5.2 percent cut in contracts, equipment, utilities and general expenses to all agencies, including offices led by District Attorney Madeline Singas, Comptroller George Maragos and County Clerk Maureen O’Connell. Salaries and benefits were not affected by the order.

O’Connell called the cuts “unwise” and “improper,” noting that her office had a $6.6 million budget in 2016 but generated $56 million in revenue.

“A major part of our county’s economy would be affected adversely by the proposed cuts,” said O’Connell, who vowed to fight the cuts.

The Department of Public Works took the biggest cut with a $7.2 million reduction in contractual spending. The Department of Human Resources would face a $1.42 million procurement cut while the Sheriff’s Office will have $1.39 million less to spend on contracts.

NIFA member Chris Wright said the cuts were “spread fairly and evenly across every department.”

Frank Moroney, spokesman for the GOP majority, said across-the-board contractual cuts will limit funding for bus service, social service programs and inmate health care.

“NIFA’s actions unnecessarily impact our most vulnerable residents and are completely avoidable under accepted accounting principles that NIFA refuses to allow the county to utilize,” Moroney said.

Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said Democrats will work with NIFA “to restore fiscal integrity” to Nassau’s budget.

NIFA will give County Executive-elect Laura Curran, a Democratic legislator who takes office Jan. 1, until March 15 to offer any significant changes to the budget.

“The cuts will present serious challenges, but I am confident we can manage them and continue the services our residents need and expect and spend their tax dollars responsibly,” Curran said.

NIFA also directed lawmakers Thursday night to pass a bill, proposed by County Executive Edward Mangano in September, imposing a $75 fee on scofflaws that fail to pay traffic tickets. The bill would generate $1 million annually.

Thursday’s vote ends a monthslong showdown between NIFA and the GOP lawmakers over methods to balance next year’s budget.

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