Control board gets its say in revised Nassau County, N.Y. budget

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A modified Nassau County budget banks on new revenue initiatives that face an uncertain political fate.

The proposal is now in the hands of a New York State fiscal control board.

County Executive Laura Curran, a Democrat who took office Jan. 1, submitted a revised spending plan on March 15.

The Nassau Interim Finance Authority had rejected a $2.99 billion budget late last year and ordered $18 million in cuts due to revenue uncertainty. The new budget contains $54.7 million in new projected savings and revenues, but NIFA Executive Director Evan Cohen noted concerns in a letter Wednesday about required legislative approvals needed for some of the revenue initiatives. He also praised the new county executive, who attended NIFA's Wednesday night meeting, for seeking new revenues and avoiding a reliance on borrowing sought by previous administrations.

“Our analysis indicates that the projected risks confronting the County will impede its chances for ending FY 2018 in [generally accepted accounting principles] balance,” said Cohen in his letter. “Strong management and legislative cooperation will be essential to any chance of success on that fiscal front.”

Cohen’s letter stressed that Curran faces political challenges to get the Republican-controlled Nassau County Legislature to implement some of her revenue plans. The county executive needs legislative passage for $9.7 million of $29 million in additional projected revenues and has already faced resistance on a proposal to change fees for Little Leagues and other non-profit groups to use county-operated athletic fields.

“It is a viable operating budget except for the risks associated with the overwhelming cost of commercial and residential claims for tax overpayment,” Curran spokesman Michael Martino said in a statement. “Once again, it is clear that the county’s poor fiscal health is intertwined with the broken assessment system and the failed the tax policies of the previous administration.”

NIFA identified $104.7 million of projected risks in the modified budget. Cohen said this number, which is up from $101.4 million of projected risks cited in the December review of the budget, reflects the Curran administration’s decision to fund $43.8 million for a court judgment owed to two men who were exonerated for a 1985 murder conviction. NIFA lauded Curran for her plan to pay for the judgment through operating revenue rather bonding.

NIFA has controlled Nassau County’s finances since early 2011 after it failed to balance its budget. The large suburban county on Long Island just outside New York City, has bond ratings of A2 from Moody’s Investors Service and A-plus by S&P Global Ratings.

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Budgets County of Nassau, NY New York