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Maragos: Additional Steps Are Required to Avoid Budget Deficit

Comptroller Says the Administration, NIFA and the Legislature Must Cooperate

Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos released his Report on the County’s Financial Condition for the First Six Months of Fiscal Year 2011 at July 29 press conference in Mineola. The report projects that the county will end the year with at least a $42 million deficit if additional measures are not implemented by the Mangano administration and accepted by NIFA.

“The sluggish pace of sales tax revenue, Albany’s unwillingness to assist the county with new money generating opportunities, and a weak economy have created a financial hole that must be filled without raising taxes,” said Maragos.

The projected year-end deficit is mainly attributable to an estimated $134 million shortfall in county revenues, Maragos stated. This is due primarily to lower sales tax revenues from a weak economy ($10 million), failure to obtain state approval for additional red light cameras ($23 million), failure to close on the sales of properties ($46 million), lower departmental revenues ($13 million) and the failure of the state to authorize LIE Ticket Surcharges ($5 million).

“The Mangano Administration needs to be commended for holding the line on spending,” Maragos added. “Unfortunately, NIFA’s imposed requirement of paying $70 million for all property tax refunds from current revenues offsets most of the expense cuts. The county would be projecting a $7 million, not a $42 million, deficit if NIFA had not changed the accounting for borrowing to pay property tax refunds.”

The Comptroller went on to say, “We urge the Mangano administration, the legislature and NIFA to deal cooperatively with the projected year-end deficit and to develop a comprehensive multi-year plan beyond 2011 which brings current expenses in line with current revenues without reliance on borrowing, one-shot revenues, or a tax increase on our hard pressed residents. Such a plan may require structural changes in county government, debt restructuring, strategic technology deployment and significant increases in nontax revenues to reach comparable levels with other counties.

“Overall the County needs a new strategic plan which streamlines government and stimulates economic development to expand the tax base and increase sales tax revenues,” Maragos concluded. “Without new revenue, the county will continue to struggle to balance its budget year after year, especially with the continued decreases in state and federal aid.”