NIFA rejects Nassau County’s proposed budget

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The Nassau County Interim Finance Authority rejected the county’s proposed $2.9 billion budget for 2017 on Tuesday night and instructed the county Legislature to fill a  budget gap of  $36 million, which developed when legislators reduced a proposed $105 traffic ticket fee.

NIFA, the county’s financial control board, voted unanimously to reject the unbalanced budget, which was approved by the Legislature on Oct. 31.

Lawmakers have until Monday to amend the budget.

“We all agree the county’s fiscal situation is severe and needs to be addressed,” Adam Barsky, the NIFA chairman, said.

The $105 traffic ticket surcharge was proposed by Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, and was to be applied to all parking and traffic violations.

The fee was proposed to raise $66 million to fund the hiring of 150 police officers and 81 civilian police employees, but the Legislature voted earlier this month to cut the fee to $55 for traffic tickets and eliminate it for parking violations.

The fee reduction caused the $36 million budget gap.

Republican legislators proposed filling the hole with a partial amnesty program, which would require businesses that have violated a 2013 county law requiring them to report income and expenses to pay 75 percent of their fines. However, the proposal was rejected by NIFA, because the law is currently being challenged in court. 

“The amnesty program is subject to legal challenge and we don’t believe that those legal challenges will be fully resolved in time for the county to realize any revenues from that program,” Barsky said.

This is the second consecutive year that  NIFA has rejected the county’s budget.

A resolution voted on by NIFA indicated that the adjusted budget must include  $75 million in tax refund payments already approved  and action to fill the $36 million gap.

Howard Weitzman was the only NIFA member to vote against the resolution, which passed 5-1, saying “more cuts are necessary to plug the gaps in the budget and meet the NIFA mandated budget goals.”

Chris Wright, who was not present, issued a statement agreeing, backed Weitzman and said $80 million in spending should be cut.

One NIFA member, Paul Annunziato, disagreed with other members of the board, saying the county’s financial situation isn’t as serious as others said.

“I strongly disagree on many of the assertions that are being made,” Annunziato said. “It is important to note the progress the county has made,” referring to the county’s progress in reducing the budget risk.

On Monday, the Legislature will vote on a plan to raise $15 million by increasing a fee to verify tax maps on real estate transactions.

That fee was raised $150 in the 2016 budget, according to the budget.

The rejection of the budget comes amid a not-guilty plea by Mangano on federal corruption charges.

On Tuesday, Republican legislators filed a bill to increase the tax map verification fee to $355 to raise $15 million, and they could resolve the remaining $21 million gap by cutting funding for youth programs and bus services, county officials said.

Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos issued a news release on Tuesday saying his office projects a deficit of $121.1 million “on a Generally Accepted Accounting Principles basis, down from a $134.1 million deficit before the amendments.”

By Stephen Romano

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