The budget woes of Nassau and Suffolk aren’t mysterious. Both counties spend more than they bring in because they lack the will to cut spending or increase taxes enough to balance the books.
So the announcement that yet another set of experts, this time from PFM Group Consulting LLC, will take a look at the situation and recommend new strategies to help ease the fiscal woes and the tax burden of Long Islanders has met with, at best, a shrug. PFM is being hired by the Long Island Regional Planning Council for $98,000.
In 2011, the Nassau Interim Finance Authority hired financial consulting firm Grant Thornton to find places to trim. The resulting plan proposed $319 million in cuts to the $2.6 billion budget. Today, the budget has grown to nearly $3 billion, the county still runs huge deficits and the 351-page Grant Thornton report gathers dust. Suffolk County faces the same challenges as Nassau: huge expenses led by exorbitant policing costs and no will to raise the revenue to pay the bills. Nassau, though, has the unique and added excuse of paying $60 million to $80 million a year in property tax rebates on behalf of the school districts and other municipalities it collects for.
PFM is a well-respected firm. It has advised Nassau County for decades. But both counties have comptrollers, legislatures and nonpartisan budget review offices. There is no shortage of professionals able and willing to break down the counties’ finances and the region’s tax burdens. There is just little will to fix them, although there are exceptions: In the 2017 budget, pressured by NIFA, Nassau found some cuts. Among them was a grant to the Long Island Regional Planning Council for $250,000.