Spin Cycle

News, views and commentary on Long Island, state and national politics.

Last Thursday NIFA member George Marlin, a registered Conservative, mocked Nassau GOP Comptroller George Maragos' claim of a "miraculous" county surplus. Today, one week later, Maragos responds with this statement:

I am shocked that Mr. George Marlin, a self-described financial expert, who is in a position of public trust on the NIFA Board, a New York State Agency, has apparently attempted to misinform the public with seemingly incorrect statements and selective out-of-context figures.

Mr. Marlin is wrong when he says that “a budget is balanced only when tax and fee income is equal to expenditures.” There are other revenue sources, such as Federal and State Aid, asset sales, bond refinancing and bond premiums which are permitted under governmental accounting rules to be included in budgetary results. Mr. Marlin cannot make up his own budgetary rules.

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Mr. Marlin asserts that he knows that the projected surplus is “contrived by fiscal gimmicks that do not address the County’s structural deficit.” Mr. Marlin conveniently forgets to mention that the County’s structural gap (the difference between recurring revenues and expenses) has actually been reduced (improved) from $252 million in 2009 during the Suozzi Administration to $35 million, per the 2013 Proposed Budget, for an 86% improvement.

Mr. Marlin conveniently omits to mention that the County’s annual long-term borrowing has been reduced by approximately 57% from $324 million in 2009 to $140 million as projected in the review of the 2013 Proposed Budget.

He also conveniently exaggerates the magnitude of the County long-term borrowings of approximately $3 billion without putting it in proper context. The County long-term borrowings are large but they are quite manageable. It is approximately equal to the County’s annual budget of $2.8 billion which compare very favorably with the State borrowings which are twice its budget and the Federal Government debt which is five times its annual budget.

Mr. Marlin conveniently omits to mention that, according to the NIFA-defined GAAP basis, the County has improved by 32% since 2009 (NIFA-defined GAAP deficit of $184.3 million) when compared to a NIFA-defined GAAP deficit of $125.1 million, as projected in the review of the 2013 Proposed Budget. On a budgetary basis, the 2013 Proposed Budget has the lowest budgetary risk, amounting to $60.1 million, in four years.

Mr. Marlin conveniently, arbitrarily and without proof disputes the Audited 2010 year-end County Financial Statements, which reflected a County budgetary surplus of approximately $26.6 million.  

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Similarly, most other statements and figures by Mr. Marlin are selective, or out of context. I especially reject his implying that the County is violating governmental accounting rules.
In every fundamental metric, the County is more financially sound today with the 2013 Adopted Budget than under the last Administration in 2009. All the fiscal improvements have been achieved without raising County property tax revenues while paying for the huge increases in health and pension costs.  Mr. Marlin should rejoice in the fact that the County has weathered the recession, has brought runaway spending under control, and continues to protect the taxpayers against higher property taxes.