The Nassau Interim Finance Authority Tuesday approved only half of Nassau County's request to borrow for a slew of capital projects after staff learned that the projects' contracts lacked NIFA approval — a surprise action the panel's chairman described as "tough love" that delays borrowing for millions to resurface county roads.
Nassau's financial control panel was considering approval of more than $74 million in borrowing, including money to upgrade voter equipment to accommodate early voting, renovation of the Family & Matrimonial Court, and funding for the Nassau County police academy and patrol cars. But NIFA counsel Jeremy Wise said that shortly before the meeting, officials discovered that the agency's staff had not reviewed underlying contracts for half the spending.
NIFA officials cited a long-standing policy of only approving borrowing after contracts were approved by the agency's staff. NIFA board member Christopher Wright said the policy was followed under the administration of former County Executive Edward Mangano and was needed "to maintain proper oversight."
Deputy County Executive for Finance Raymond Orlando said after the meeting that county officials were first informed of the contract issue just two hours before the evening meeting.
He argued to NIFA directors that the order of approvals for the contracts and then the borrowing was not relevant. "I don't believe the order of contract first is necessarily serving the taxpayers and residents of the county well."
NIFA Chairman Adam Barsky said after the panel of directors' 6-0 vote: "I understand that the county ... [may] prefer it another way, but we've had this process in place for a long time. I think that it's ... tough love."
In theory, the county could have raised money that will sit in its coffers if NIFA were to ultimately reject the contracts, Wise said.
But Orlando told NIFA directors, "I can assure you that the road resurfacing money will be spent."
NIFA advised county officials to cover the projects — mostly for road resurfacing — with existing funds and get reimbursed later. NIFA meets next in three weeks, when county officials can re-seek the approvals.
In an interview afterward, Orlando said, "I don't believe that the policy has been consistently applied on this matter." He said the county will now have to borrow twice, a move that would drive up the county's expenditures.
NIFA authorized borrowing for about $36 million worth of projects, including:
- The Nassau County Police Academy, $6.7 million
- Police fleet replacement, $3.4 million
- Vehicle purchases for Sheriff's Department, $1 million
It did not approve $6.4 million in funding to renovate the court, $3.7 million for voter machine upgrades, and $91,000 for upgrades to its rifle and pistol range in Uniondale.