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The Real State of Nassau's Finances

Editor’s note: This is a response to Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos’s “County Financial Report Card,” published in the Massapequa Observer, Sept. 11-17 edition. Howard Weitzman is running on the Democratic line against Maragos in the November election.

George Maragos continues to mislead the public by falsely claiming that the county’s financial condition has improved on his watch. During Mr. Maragos’s tenure as Nassau County’s fiscal watchdog, the county has undergone three bond downgrades by the credit rating agencies, the county’s fiscal outlook has been lowered from “stable” to “negative,” and the county’s debt has reached a new all-time high. No amount of “cooking the books” and issuing misleading financial statements and  press releases can hide this truth, a truth which can be easily verified by outside sources.

As a Certified Public Accountant and former Nassau County Comptroller, I can see through the blatant attempts by Maragos to cook the books to produce the result he wants instead of the result that is truthful. The problem is that voters are disillusioned by the back-and-fourth of political campaigns where one side makes one claim and the other side counters with the opposite take. If voters don’t know who to believe, they should look at what independent, outside sources have to say about the county’s finances.

If the county’s finances are so rosy, then why did the Nassau Interim Finance Authority (NIFA) have to impose tough oversight on the county’s finances? Ronald Stack, the chairman of NIFA remarked at a July 2013 meeting, “To the county officials who believe there is a surplus, would they please call me so I can hold an emergency meeting of the board so we can lift controls?” To date no one has called.

On Sept. 4, 2013 The Wall Street Journal published an investigative piece that highlighted how a controversial judge’s order sought by the Republican county attorney allowed the county to hide outstanding liabilities to turn its  2012 $45 million budgetary deficit into a surplus on paper. When pressed, the county attorney acknowledged that he “knew it would affect the budget.”  

The editorial board of Newsday published a piece on June 12, 2013 with the headline, “Don’t buy Nassau’s financial window dressing.”  In the editorial, Maragos was skewered when the editorial board stated, “…while the surplus is a fiction, the county’s financial woes are all too real. In the real world, and according to generally accepted accounting principles, the county had an $85-million deficit last year.”

Even if you don’t trust the collective wisdom of the chairman of NIFA, The Wall Street Journal, and Newsday, take a moment to consider what George Marlin, the 2009 chairman of Conservatives for Ed Mangano and a NIFA Board member had to say.  Marlin said, “The County Comptroller’s declaration that Nassau ended fiscal year 2012 with a “miraculous” surplus (as claimed by Maragos) was absurd. It was a mirage, not a miracle.” Marlin continued, “Let’s face it, the County has forfeited its credibility when it comes to fiscal matters”

Maragos claims that the growing liability for property tax refunds has been addressed is totally unsupported. Just this week, on Sept. 8, 2013, Newsday reported that claims for refunds have reached an all-time high. The county policy of freezing home values in a declining housing market has made the problem worse. And granting 90 percent of the challenges have transferred the County’s liability to the backs of taxpayers.

Politics can be a tough business where people levy accusations back and forth to gain electoral advantage. The sad truth is that our county is in deep financial distress and instead of seeking solutions, people like George Maragos distort the truth and refuse to even acknowledge that a problem exists. It is necessary to restore confidence in the county’s financial reports before we begin the task of repairing the county’s finances.

News

Two hundred business students from high schools across Nassau County, including Massapequa High School, competed for scholarships and cash awards—more than $33,000 in all—from various sponsors at Nassau County’s annual Comptroller’s Entrepreneurial Challenge.

The events on Sept. 11, 2001 had a profound effect on nearly all in the tri-state area, but for first responders, the effects were overwhelming. Long-time Massapequa resident Michael Smith, a member of the New York Fire Department, experienced those effects firsthand.

“While I’ve always been a person that could appreciate life, after 9/11 I became so distraught,” he said. “I realized I need to do something I want to do — something I love to do.”

A 30-year veteran of the fire department, Smith retired in 2002. He and his wife of 33 years, Teresa, began to look for a place they could enjoy life. This mindset brought them to the East End of Long Island, where they often went for day trips. They settled down in a home in Orient Point in 2004; in a home that needed quite a bit of work. And when it was time to landscape the property, a new idea took root — a vineyard.


Sports

Massapequa athletes recently received honors from their coaches at Kellenberg Memorial High School.

Each season, the coaches of all of the Kellenberg teams choose one member of their team who stands out as an athlete that has worked hard to improve themselves in their chosen sport.

The Farmingdale State women’s lacrosse team won the first game of their Spring Break trip to North Carolina with a victory over Greensboro College. In wet and muddy conditions, the Rams (8-1) held an 8-5 lead at the half and took the eventual 13-10 win.

In the first half and tied 2-2, the Pride (7-5) pulled ahead 4-2 with two unassisted goals by junior attack Nadya Fedun. Farmingdale State answered with four straight scores for a 6-4 advantage, on goals by juniors Alyssa Handel, Nicole Marzocca and Massapequan Jackie Kennedy.

Sophomore attack Ashlynn Parks put Greensboro within a goal at the 7:03 mark, but the Rams scored two more to lead 8-5 at the halftime break.

Calendar

YES Fundraiser

Saturday, April 26

Massapequa Memories

Tuesday, April 29

Spring Fashion Show

Wednesday, April 30



Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com

The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
Written by Mike Barry, MFBarry@optonline.net

Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com