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NIFA: Amendments throw Nassau budget "out of balance"

Adam Barsky, chairman of the Nassau Interim

 Adam Barsky, chairman of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority. Credit: Danielle Silverman

Bills by the Republican-controlled Nassau County Legislature to cut $100 million in county fees and boost sales tax projections would throw the 2022 county budget "out of balance," according to an opinion issued Thursday by Nassau's financial control board.

Even if Democratic County Executive Laura Curran were to veto the amendments, her administration has "jeopardized" the budget by proposing to cut property taxes by $70 million next year, the board of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority said.

The five-member NIFA board voted unanimously to adopt the recommendations on Thursday.

NIFA, which must approve the 2022 county budget, issued its findings three days after the county legislature approved GOP amendments to Curran’s $3.5 billion budget for 2022.

Democrats abstained from the vote on the amended budget but voted against the individual amendments.

"Based on the actions taken by the legislature, including the cut to fees and increased sales tax projections, the budget is out of balance and could not be approved in its current state," NIFA chairman Adam Barsky said.

NIFA said even if Curran vetoes the GOP budget amendments, her administration "jeopardized fiscal balance" by proposing to reduce the property tax levy by $70 million in 2022.

NIFA also cautioned against cutting recurring sources of revenue, even if the county’s near-term financial outlook appeared to be positive.

The Republican budget amendments passed Monday with all 11 Republicans voting in favor, and all eight Democrats abstaining.

The amendments to Curran's proposed 2022 budget would eliminate fees including the red light camera public safety fee and the tax map verification fee that produce a total of $100 million in revenues.

The GOP amendments also would boost the property tax cut by additional $50 million, bringing the total property tax cut to $120 million.

The amendments also called for elimination of county executive staff, including seven employees in the public relations office, for savings of $1.1 million.

Republicans argued that better than expected sales tax revenues would offset revenue lost by the fee eliminations.

"We are not surprised that the Democrat-controlled state oversight board opposes the Republican Majority’s efforts to provide financial relief to residents, including cutting taxes and fees," Christopher Boyle, spokesman for the GOP caucus, said Thursday.

Curran spokesman Michael Fricchione said the administration had "submitted a responsible, carefully crafted budget that protects taxpayers. NIFA’s report clearly indicates that the Majority’s reckless amendments would, as history as shown, once again drive our County off the fiscal cliff."

Beyond Curran's proposed tax cut, her 2022 budget plan, released last month, would boost public safety spending by $45 million, adding 70 positions to the police and probation departments, the sheriff’s office and other law enforcement agencies.

Curran has 10 days from this past Tuesday to veto the Republican amendments.

The legislature then would have seven days to attempt to override a veto. Approval of an override would require a supermajority 13 votes.

Curran and 18 of 19 county legislators are running for reelection.

Legis. Vincent Muscarella (R-West Hempstead) is not seeking reelection.

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