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Nassau GOP, Democrats submit dueling budget amendments

The Theodore Roosevelt Executive and Legislative Building in

The Theodore Roosevelt Executive and Legislative Building in Mineola, the seat of Nassau County government, is seen here. Credit: Amy Onorato

Nassau’s Republican and Democratic county lawmakers have filed separate bills to remove $60 million in fee increases proposed by outgoing County Executive Edward Mangano for next year’s $2.99 billion budget.

Both sides want to eliminate Mangano’s plan to hike the county’s $55 surcharge on traffic tickets by an undetermined amount to raise $35 million. And both want to remove $25 million in new or increased real estate transactions fees.

Currently, Nassau’s fees for recording mortgages, deeds and satisfactions are the highest in the state. This week a good government group sued Suffolk over similar fee hikes, saying the money was intended to fill a general budget hole rather than cover the cost of providing real estate services. The group promised to challenge Nassau fees next.

The Republican majority and Democratic minority propose different methods of replacing the fee revenue.

Republicans suggest restructuring debt, increasing the estimate of sales taxes expected to be collected next year and adopting cost-saving measures proposed by the county’s financial control board, the Nassau Interim Finance Authority.

Democrats want to use $35 million in bond premiums — essentially money generated by borrowing more than needed at higher interest rates — and cutting police overtime by reopening two closed police precincts and reducing the use of outside counsel.

But NIFA said it would not approve either side’s plan.

NIFA Chairman Adam Barsky said in a statement the “amendments, as submitted by the County Legislative Majority and Minority, do not comply” with a recent NIFA resolution saying any budget changes must include “equivalent and recurring revenue increases or expenditure savings.”

“By removing vital revenue increases and relying on projections that are too aggressive, the budget is no longer responsibly balanced and NIFA will have no choice but to reject the document if the amendments are adopted,” Barsky said. “NIFA is reaching out and making itself available for a constructive dialogue to offer a path forward.”

The legislature must approve a budget by Oct. 30, before next month’s election when all county legislative seats are up along with the county executive, county comptroller and county clerk offices. Many candidates have expressed frustration with NIFA, which has been overseeing county finances since 2000 and is funded through county sales taxes.

Legis. Denise Ford of Long Beach, who used to attend NIFA meetings on a regular basis, said recently, “I don’t believe they [NIFA] have done much for Nassau except spend some of our tax money.”

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