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Nassau Interim Finance Authority approves $3.11 billion Nassau budget for 2020

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran in Mineola on

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran in Mineola on Feb 27. Credit: Danielle Silverman

The Nassau Interim Finance Authority on Thursday night approved County Executive Laura Curran's $3.11 billion budget for 2020 and projected a $47.8 million deficit for next year.

The board approved the budget in a 5-0 vote.

NIFA, which controls county finances, also noted in a report that the projected deficit does not include the cost of future labor agreements. Pacts with the county's major unions expired at the end of 2017.

Curran vetoed several amendments filed by Republican lawmakers. But she let stand amendments to establish an Office of Crime Victims Advocate to assist victims and witnesses of crimes with legal help, for $890,000; $2.795 million in funding to pay for more positions in the county district attorney's office and the probation department to deal with implementation of statewide criminal justice reform; and a $4 million cut to the budget for the county Information and Technology department.

 But NIFA officials warned that budget changes could "commit additional resources to departments that may otherwise have been available to fund new labor agreements." 

A NIFA report released yesterday noted that the Curran administration "will need to manage these risks, and any others that may arise during the year, including potentially those from unfunded labor agreements and slippage in its assessment reforms."

Majority Republican lawmakers had inserted $5.8 million in increases and $5.8 million in cuts to Curran's budget proposals. Through her vetoes of some measures, and acceptance of others, Curran reduced spending from her original 2020 budget by $315,000. 

NIFA warned that deficits could grow to $74 million in 2021, $140.6 million in 2022 and $190.1 million in 2023.

"The county's making incremental progress," NIFA Chairman Adam Barsky said earlier Thursday. "The risks in this year's budget are lower than they have been in the past, but the county has a long way to go in getting out of the financial control period."

NIFA instituted the control period in 2011. A control period is triggered when the county is likely to incur a 1% deficit or more within the county's major funds budget.

NIFA Executive Director Evan Cohen said the potential budget deficit does not reflect plans to borrow $200 million to pay back tax challenge refunds. Cohen also said the  potential deficit for 2020 was the "lowest in many years." 

"It's a good thing. I think there's been a convergence toward balance," Cohen said. "There are risks, those risks can be managed by the administration."

Christine Geed, a spokeswoman for Curran, said in a statement Thursday night that Curran "is committed to exercising spending discipline while ensuring residents continue to receive the efficient and high-quality services they deserve. We are appreciative that NIFA recognizes our efforts in fiscal responsibility.”

Barsky said the board went into executive session Thursday to get a briefing on a labor agreement approved last week by NuHealth, the public benefit corporation that runs Nassau University Medical Center, providing raises for more than 3,000  NuHealth union employees. “We’re concerned about the financial condition of the hospital. … We requested a meeting with the hospital to understand how this contract will be paid for and consider any other options that there may be,” Barsky said in an interview. 

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