NICE bus at the stop on Meacham Avenue and Hempstead...

NICE bus at the stop on Meacham Avenue and Hempstead Turnpike in Elmont in December. Credit: Steve Pfost

Nassau’s bus provider is once again facing a seven-figure deficit, but the agency’s chief said NICE’s latest financial challenge is “manageable.”

Michael Setzer, chief executive officer of the Nassau Inter-County Express, or NICE Bus, on Thursday revealed that the agency is forecasting a $2 million deficit in its $130 million 2018 operating budget.

NICE has faced budget deficits in five out of six years since it was created in 2012. Filling the budget gaps has often required cutting bus service, raising fares or both.

However, Setzer, speaking to Nassau’s Bus Transit Committee, which governs NICE, emphasized that at this time last year the agency was facing a $12 million deficit, which eventually resulted in NICE cutting service by about 10 percent in April.

“We have a much more manageable challenge than we had last year,” Setzer said of the projected shortfall. “It’d be nice if it were zero, but it’s a much more comfortable, manageable thing.”

NICE has until March to deliver a balanced budget.

Helping minimize NICE’s fiscal challenge is $7.3 million in aid proposed by County Executive Edward Mangano — “a bigger amount than we’ve seen in a long time” from the county, Setzer said.

That amount still needs to be approved by the full Nassau legislature as part of the county’s annual operating budget, expected to be finalized next month.

Michelle Darcy, finance director for the legislature’s Democratic minority, said at the transit committee meeting that Democratic lawmakers are “carefully studying the budget at this time.”

The meeting was held at NICE’s Garden City headquarters.

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