By now, I am sure most of you have heard or read about County Executive Thomas Gulotta's preliminary budget for 2001 and are aware of the deeply troubling financial situation and the extremely difficult decisions now facing Nassau County legislators.
In May of this year, Governor George Pataki, recognizing Nassau County's dire financial situation, presented a $100 million state bailout in exchange for the county's commitment to cutting expenditures over the next four years; $50 million this year and an additional $70 million in each of the next two years and $80 in the third year. To ensure the county was working to meet its obligation, Governor Pataki appointed the Nassau Interim Finance Authority. If the county failed, state officials said a financial control board would be appointed to manage the county's finances and make whatever decisions it deemed necessary to balance the budget.
The county executive finally released a preliminary financial plan last week. The 16-page document unfortunately failed to provide sufficient backup documentation for the baseline estimates and proposed initiatives he has included in his preliminary fiscal plan for 2001, and even fewer specifics regarding his intentions for resolving the growing budget deficit in the remaining three years, through 2004. As the week progressed, County Executive Gulotta presented a long-range plan indicating a deficit of $20 million in 2004 without any suggested corrective measures.
While the majority caucus has not yet had sufficient time to evaluate in detail Mr. Gulotta's preliminary plan, we are pleased that the plan addresses some of the governmental reforms and local management initiatives that the majority caucus has advocated since last January.
However, we are concerned as to whether many of the budget cuts, anticipated revenues and new initiatives proposed by County Executive Gulotta will materialize or that the $33 proposed tax increase will adequately restore the long-term financial health of the county.
The county executive's plan contained precious few details regarding specific initiatives and failed to provide service impact statements for those initiatives included in the plan. Without an analysis of the effect that these initiatives will have on county services, it is difficult to assess their viability.
In addition, we perceive problems with the current projected savings from the current hiring freeze and the Fiscal 2000 County Severance Incentive Program and we believe that at least $15 million of local management initiatives are at risk of not occurring.
The $63.9 million in new initiatives, which include layoffs, departmental consolidations, program reductions and a revenue increase, are difficult to assess given the lack of any significant backup documentation or impact statements. And, while we appreciate receiving some preliminary outlines of possible labor agreements that may result in savings, none of them have been signed.
As you can see, there is still much to do to resolve the financial situation in Nassau County. The legislative majority is committed to adopting a balanced budget and financial plan. I assure you that the document approved next month will be one that matches revenues with expenditures, contains realistic estimates, protects vital county services and corrects any risky assumptions or technical flaws that may exist in the current proposal.