Nassau County seeks fiscal guidance from ex-Nasdaq head

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Nassau County, New York, tapped a former Nasdaq executive to lead a task force to tackle the county’s long-term budget challenges.

Frank Zarb, who was chairman and CEO of Nasdaq from 1997 to 2001, will chair the new Fiscal Planning Advisory Panel that will form recommendations to combat constant deficits that have plagued the suburban county.

Zarb was also the original chairman of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, a New York State fiscal oversight board formed in 2000 when the county faced a funding crisis that nearly led to insolvency. NIFA later seized control of Nassau finances in January 2011 after the county failed to balance its budget under former County Executive Ed Mangano.

“Frank Zarb was here for NIFA’s first days,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said in a statement. “I would like him to be here for NIFA’s last days.”

NIFA rejected the county’s $2.99 billion 2018 fiscal year budget in December because of uncertain revenue assumptions, prompting Curran, who took office in January, to submit a revised spending plan on March 15 that contained $54.7 million in new projected savings and revenue. The control board also rejected Nassau's initial 2017 budget plan due to revenue risks.

“Almost 20 years later and we are still trying to right Nassau’s financial ship,” said Zarb, who was also President Gerald Ford’s “energy czar” in the mid-1970s. “I am honored County Executive Curran has asked me to lead this esteemed group and help devise a strategy to get out of a control period and put the county’s finances back in the hands of the administration.”

Zarb is a senior advisor at private equity firm Hellman & Friedman and also serves as a non-executive chairman of the Promontory Financial Group.

Nassau County had a population of around 1.3 million people in the 2010 U.S. Census. New York State’s sixth-most populous county has general obligation bond ratings of A2 from Moody’s Investors Service and A-plus by S&P Global Ratings.

Zarb will lead a panel that also features former state Senator Charles Fuschillo; former New York City First Deputy Mayor Marc Shaw; Elizabeth McCaul, a former Goldman Sachs investment banker and previous superintendent of banks for New York State; and Nassau County Deputy County Executive for Finance Mark Page.

Curran has requested a report from the task force by early July.

“Nassau’s challenges are very complex,” said Page, a former director of New York City’s Office of Management and Budget under Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “I am looking forward to working with this panel and exploring every method and action necessary that will put Nassau back on track and return control to the leaders who were elected by the voters.”

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Budgets County of Nassau, NY Nassau County Interim Finance Authority New York