Nassau County, N.Y.’s state-appointed control board cut the county’s requested bonding plan by one-third from $90 million, and again chastised officials for failing to provide a plan to save $150 million in labor costs.
The Nassau Interim Finance Authority on Wednesday reduced the county’s general obligation borrowing to $60 million for capital projects, including road and park improvements, at its meeting in Uniondale.
The county will determine the priority for such projects. “We won’t be taking judgment away from policymakers, but we will be putting them on a fiscal diet,” said board member Christopher Wright.
Board chairman Ronald Stack said NIFA will consider the remaining $30 million later, but there is no guarantee of approval. “I’ve had conversations with numerous county officials who say, 'This is the way we’ve always done it.’ Well, we’re in a control period and this is not the way we’ll do it now,” he said.
NIFA board members, repeating criticisms of the past two months, also chided county officials for issuing contracts without board approval, then borrowing to cover cash advances.
“This ought to be the last time we hear about cash advances,” Wright said. “There should not be a shovel on the ground or boot on the ground or a worker on the job without legislative approval of a contract or NIFA approval of a contract.”
New York Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s office, at NIFA’s request, has begun an audit of the county’s contracting procedures.
The authority also approved $35 million in stormwater improvements, $17 million in severance packages for workers who were laid off or took early retirement at the end of last year, $9.6 million in environmental bond act projects, and a $7.7 million settlement to the family of 2009 murder victim Jo’anna Bird of New Cassel over a claim that police failed to protect her.
The plan for labor-related savings was due Wednesday. “At this point, it’s clear that they’re at least a day late, and more than a dollar short,” Wright said.
Nassau officials have scheduled a meeting with Stack for Friday, according to County Executive Edward Mangano. “We are on target to achieve the $150 million in savings pursuant to the budget,” he said in a statement, adding that Stack was unavailable to meet on Wednesday.
Fitch Ratings in December lowered Nassau’s GOs to A-plus from AA-minus, citing excessive dependence on sales tax revenue and use of stopgap measures to close budget deficits. Moody’s Investors Service rates them A1, while Standard & Poor’s assigns an equivalent A-plus.