Curran outlines plan to address budget gaps upwards of $749 million

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said the county will rely on the Nassau Interim Finance Authority to address the budget shortfalls of almost $750 million over the next 18 months. (Photo courtesy of the county executive's office)

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said she will ask the Nassau Interim Finance Authority to aid in efforts to combat a $749 million deficit the county faces over the next 18 months.

The county faces a deficit of $385 million in the 2020 fiscal year and $364 million in the 2021 fiscal year due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the county’s multiyear financial plan released last week.

County officials announced that gap closing programs have been prepared that rely on the finance authority to refinance $75 million of existing county debt in the fiscal year 2020 and another $210 million next fiscal year.

“Our residents and businesses are facing difficult times and the county’s services that support the health and safety of residents are in high demand,” Curran said. “Whatever the crisis may be, my administration will always meet the challenge of protecting our residents, but we will need a balanced budget to do so.”

“Our sales tax collections in FY2020 are projected to decline by 20% because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Nassau Deputy County Executive of Finance Raymond Orlando said. “Nassau County has developed a gap-closing plan to address these unprecedented deficits.”

According to officials, Curran discussed the plan with leaders from the majority and minority caucuses in the County Legislature and hopes to continue to have more in-depth briefings so the county can deal with the financial crisis in the most effective way.

“We look to work collaboratively with the County Legislature to pursue our strategy for maintaining the funding needed for essential services as the effects of this public health crisis continue,” Curran said.

Presiding Officer Rich Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) said he does not approve of Curran’s plan to use the Nassau Interim Finance Authority to aid in reducing the budget gaps.

“The County Executive’s plan to have NIFA borrow money to fill a budget hole will saddle our children and grandchildren with debt and the expense for maintaining the NIFA bureaucracy for 30 years,” Curran said. “The independent analysis shows that just the cost of paying for NIFA’s operation alone will be in the hundreds of millions. The County Executive must go back to the drawing board and come up with better ideas.”

According to figures provided by Nassau County’s Office of Legislative Budget Review Director Maurice Chalmers, the average annual increase of the county’s expenses for the Nassau Interim Finance Authority from 2008 to 2019 was 8.7 percent.

If that same average is applied for the next 30 years of Nassau Interim Finance Authority expenses, the county will spend a total of more than $257 million, according to the figures. With no escalation from the county’s 2020 $2 million allocations for expenses, it would be a total of $60 million.

According to the plan, the county will use $112 million in budget surplus funds from last year.  County officials said Curran will submit her executive budget for the fiscal year 2021 no later than Sept. 15, and it will include a detailed plan for a balanced budget along with updates.

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Robert Pelaez

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