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County Comptroller Maragos Touts Surplus for 2010 Budget

As Nassau County continues to unfold layoffs and budget cuts as part of a $121 million deficit reduction plan for its 2011 budget, Comptroller George Maragos has announced that a recent audit revealed that the county actually ended 2010 under-budget, with a $26.6 million surplus.

Comptroller Maragos told Anton Community Newspapers that an outside audit by Deloitte & Touche LLP, an independent certified public accounting firm, discovered that the Nassau County Interim Finance Authority (NIFA) withheld $15.3 million too much in sales tax that should have gone to the county.

NIFA manages about half of the county’s roughly $3.6 billion in debt, Maragos said, and as part of the arrangement, sales tax due to the county passes through NIFA. Once collected, the tax goes first to New York State, which returns 50 percent, he said. This portion then goes to NIFA to cover the county’s debt service. For one six-month period last year, the error was substantial. (NIFA was unavailable for comment at the time of this printing.)

“Everyone has admitted the error,” Maragos said. “This now goes back to the county and is recognized as revenue. So, we have more money in the bank then we thought we’d have. Every year since 2006 the county has drawn down funds. This is the first year we have added money back.”

In total, changes contributing to the $26.6 million surplus, Maragos said, were $4.1 million from operations, $13.1 million from an accounting change and $9.4 million from the previously stated over accruals and other audit adjustments.

During his announcement, Maragos stated: “The audited results confirm the remarkable achievement by the Mangano administration, which turned a budgetary deficit of $133 million at the beginning of 2010 into a $26.6 million surplus. This was achieved after repeal of the 2.5 percent energy tax, and no property tax increase while absorbing double digit increases in pension costs, and health care costs. The $26.6 million is real money that will be added to the county’s fund balance. As a result, the fund balance has increased from $64.2 million to $90.8 million.”

The comptroller told Anton Community Newspapers that these funds will be available to County Executive Edward P. Mangano and the Legislature “to draw down if needed.” However, the course remained the same for the deficit reduction plans spurred by NIFA’s 2011 takeover. Working to shrink what NIFA determined to be a $176 million hole in this year’s budget, the county went ahead with a layoff of 128 employees, effective July 1, for $10 million in savings.

“The layoffs are consistent with the county executive’s measures to end this year in balance,” said Maragos.