A view of Nassau Community College in Garden City in...

A view of Nassau Community College in Garden City in 2016. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Nassau County legislators on Monday unanimously approved an $184 million Nassau Community College operating budget that does not raise student tuition for the 2022-23 year, despite declining enrollment and expiring federal aid. 

The 19-member legislature, in a separate vote, also approved an agreement to end a yearslong legal action by county parks vendor Dover Gourmet, owned by Butch Yamali, that began after the administration of former County Executive Laura Curran terminated the company for alleged nonpayment of bills.

Both measures required the approval of the full legislature.

To balance the 2022-23 budget, NCC tapped $19 million in federal grants allocated to support colleges during the COVID-19 pandemic through the CARES Act under the Trump administration and the American Rescue Plan under the Biden administration.

NCC received a total of $78 million in federal pandemic relief. 

"We have suffered enrollment declines over the last several years. That is a national trend, and again, we are looking at adding new programs and new degree programs to attract adult students, certainly adult students in the workforce," NCC interim President Maria Conzatti told lawmakers Monday.

The budget is 4.3% lower than last year's adopted budget of $192 million. Tuition is $2,900 per semester or $5,800 a year for full-time students — more than at Suffolk County Community College.

Eighty-seven percent of the school's budget is salaries and fringe benefits, Conzatti said. 

A recent analysis by the Office of Legislative Budget Review warned that when federal pandemic funding is no longer available, "the College is likely to face serious challenges going forward. NCC may be forced to make adjustments to its operations in order to survive the end of the funding assistance."

NCC, with about 20,000 full-time and part-time students at its 225-acre Garden City campus, is the largest single-campus community college in the state system.

State and county funding, along with student tuition, each are supposed to fund about a third of NCC's annual operating budget.

The county's $52.2 million annual contribution to the college has remained constant for more than a decade, and in recent years the school has relied more heavily on tuition dollars.

Enrollment is projected to decline by 9% compared with the past academic year. 

Legis. Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park), the presiding officer, said the enrollment decline "is of concern to all of us" and asked what college officials are doing to attract more students.

Conzatti said the school is offering more vocational programs in the trades such as HVAC certification and plumbing, along with programs that allow students to transfer more easily to four-year programs.

While NCC operated on remote and hybrid schedules during the pandemic, the college will have fully in-person classes this fall, Conzatti said. 

Legis. Delia DeRiggi-Whitton (D-Glen Cove) asked how the community college can compete with other SUNY colleges that make college tuition-free for some students through Excelsior Scholarships.

"Is there a way to lobby the state to provide more money? I mean, how do we compete with that?," DeRiggi-Whitton said.

Conzatti replied college officials would be looking into the issue.

Faren Siminoff, president of NCCFT, the union representing full-time faculty, told county legislators: "The college needs more money." 

"It's been 15 years since the county has increased its funding to the college," Siminoff said. "If you want to grow the college, you have to invest in the college." 

The vote to settle Dover Gourmet's lawsuit against the county was 11-6, with Legis. Carrié Solages (D-Valley Stream) joining 11 majority Republicans in voting yes.

Legis. Denise Ford, a Long Beach Democrat who caucuses with Republicans, abstained while Legis. Debra Mulé (D-Freeport) recused herself. 

Earlier this month, the legislature's Rules Committee approved a new, 10-year contract with Dover to operate Nickerson Beach Park in Lido Beach, along with concessions at other county parks and beaches.

The legal agreement with Dover required a vote of the full legislature. 

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