Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano has until Jan. 20 to come up with substantial budgetary information that will pass muster with the Nassau Interim Finance Authority or else the New York State-appointed oversight panel will launch steps to take over the county finances, it was announced Thursday at a special meeting in Uniondale.
If the county’s budget is found to be running a 1 percent deficit (about $26 million of the $2.6 billion budget), or if a 1 percent deficit is likely, then NIFA has the power to take over the county’s finances: freezing labor contracts, controlling borrowing, and revising the budget.
After a lengthy closed door meeting at the Marriott Long Island Hotel, NIFA chairman Ronald Stack said, “NIFA has decided to give the county, in an abundance of caution, one final opportunity” to present, in writing, detailed descriptions of the county executive’s claims that its budget will be balanced. “The deadline for the county executive and the county of Nassau is Jan. 20.”
Once the board has a chance to analyze the county’s itemized explanation, Stack said, it will hold another meeting to announce its decision regarding the potential takeover.
“Based on the information we have now,” Stack said, “NIFA is extremely concerned that the 2011 budget is not balanced, and that a 1 percent deficit is a real threat.”
Before the NIFA board went into executive session, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, who had not been invited to appear before the board and wasn’t expected to attend, addressed the directors and reiterated his belief that “there is no need” for NIFA to take control now because he has balanced next year’s budget.
Waving a copy of the letter that he’d given the board Tuesday, he cited the additional $23 million in 2011 budget cuts that he’d mentioned to them as further proof that he had the fiscal situation under control. “There may come a time when I need to ask for your help, but that time is not now.”
NIFA board members expressed serious doubts.
“The people of Nassau County today are facing the tale of two deficits,” said George Marlin, one of the members of the panel. “A serious and critical budget deficit that the Mangano administration inherited and which, I acknowledge, some progress has been made to eliminate that deficit, but again, in my judgment, far from enough. Then there’s the credibility deficit. A lack of candor has been coming from the county. Promises have been made but not kept.
“We’ve heard about the $61 million in labor savings that have not come about,” Marlin continued. “We heard about a sales tax increase, which was going to happen but was then repudiated by [Assembly] Speaker [Sheldon] Silver, Sen. [Dean] Skelos [state Senate majority leader], and even some Long Island Republican senators. Then there was the
Taxpayer Relief Act, which was never introduced to the county legislature. This tale of two deficits will not end with the best of times but with the worst of times if the county is not candid with the public, the media, elected officials and NIFA.”
After the closed door meeting, Judith Kaye, New York’s former top judge and now a member of Manhattan-based law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, which NIFA has hired to provide them with legal advice, was asked about concerns some citizens have raised about NIFA’s motives.
She tells the Press, “I don’t’ think they’re out to seize power from anybody. They’re just trying to discharge their statutory responsibilities.”
Members of several public employees unions who were on hand to await the outcome of the meeting now have to wait until next month to see how their county contracts will fare. Mangano has said he wants them to make further concessions. When it comes to taking a hit to fill a budget gap, Jerry Laricchiuta, president of the CSEA Nassau Local 830, tells the Press, “It’s always labor.”