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Report: Nassau’s 2018 budget includes $128M in projected risk

NIFA board members from left, Howard Weitzman, John

NIFA board members from left, Howard Weitzman, John Buran, Lester Petracca, Christopher Wright, chairman Adam Barsky, Paul Annunziato and Paul Leventhal at the NIFA board meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017, in Uniondale. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano’s proposed 2018 budget has nearly $128 million in projected risk, including $60 million in fee hikes that will likely be rejected by the GOP-controlled Legislature, according to a new report by a state monitoring board controlling the county’s finances.

The Nassau Interim Finance Authority report found that while the county has made progress in reducing the size of its deficit, “immense fiscal challenges remain” that will keep the county under NIFA control for the foreseeable future.

And without significant changes to reduce $127.9 million in identified risks, NIFA, which met Tuesday in Uniondale, is expected to reject the budget and send it back to the legislature for changes.

“We are interested in a budget that is balanced and sound with an acceptable amount of risk,” said NIFA Chairman Adam Barsky.

Mangano’s $2.99 billion budget would raise $35 million by increasing the $55 surcharge on traffic tickets and another $25 million through a pair of residential real estate fee hikes.

County lawmakers, who are up for re-election in November, have indicated they will reject the fee hikes but have not said how they would replace the revenue. Lawmakers must pass the budget by Oct. 30 — eight days before Election Day.

NIFA passed a resolution Tuesday directing lawmakers to come up with alternative cuts or revenue generators if they eliminate the fee hikes from the budget.

“We will look to see if we can find ways to bring back a balanced budget,” said Frank Moroney, a spokesman for presiding officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow).

Eric Naughton, Nassau’s deputy county executive for finance, said Mangano “delivered a balanced budget which maintains all essential services without a property tax increase . . . If the Legislature approves the budget, any risks identified by NIFA are manageable in 2018.”

As in past years, NIFA said the county’s recurring expenses are growing faster than recurring revenues.

For example, after budgeting $70-$75 million in recent years to pay tax refunds, Nassau is appropriating only $30 million for them in 2018. With the county’s long-term tax refund liability expected to exceed $344 million by year’s end, NIFA contends that Nassau underfunded its backlog by roughly $40 million.

“The county continues to kick the can down the road and let someone else deal with it,” said NIFA member Howard Weitzman, a former Democratic county comptroller.

The board is also concerned that Nassau Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. has yet to reach a “binding” agreement with the county to ensure it pays Nassau $15.8 million next year as part of a deal that allowed Resorts World Casino in Queens to host an additional 1,000 video slot machines.

The county is also counting on $5.2 million from a law being challenged in court that fines commercial property owners who do not file required tax returns, and $3.6 million in “one-shot” sales of county property. Nassau also failed to budget for any salary increases in 2018 even as most union labor agreements are set to expire at the end of 2017.

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