Legislature approves $46M in new fee revenue

Noah Manskar And Joe Nikic

The Nassau County Legislature voted Monday night to approve several fee increases that would generate $46 million in anticipated revenue for next year’s budget, four days after a state-appointed financial oversight board rejected the budget legislators had previously approved. 

The Nov. 19 vote by the Nassau Interium Finance Authority gave County Executive Edward Mangano and Nassau legislative leaders until Nov. 30 to cover an $81 million deficit risk and present a revised budget. 

NIFA Board Chairman Jon Kaiman told Newsday the restored fee increases were a “positive sign,” but did not say if enough revenue was generated to pass the budget.

Mortgage recording fees will increase from $150 to $300 for a projected revenue increase of $16 million and tax map verification fees will increase from $75 to $225 for a projected revenue increase of $19.6 million. 

Both fee increases were originally proposed by Mangano.

Additional fee hikes for the traffic ticket administrative charge, filing building plans with Department of Public Works and review of commercial fire plans by the Fire Commission are projected to add $10.6 million in revenue.

“A great deal of effort since last week, and as recent as this morning, was expended to make sure we that could join together in making the cuts that were imposed or would have been imposed if we did not come up with a plan of our own,” Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow). “I am pleased that we were able to do this in a bipartisan way and I am very proud of every one of my colleagues on this board, both the minority and the majority. Because we can show the public that when it comes to standing together for good reason, we can do it.”

Kaiman has repeatedly said NIFA is prepared to make drastic cuts to discretionary expenses, impose a countywide hiring freeze and more tightly control county contracts.

Mangano’s office released a list of $17.6 million in proposed cuts last week, including $6.4 million from youth services, $4.4 million from subsidies for the Nassau Inter-County Express Bus service, $4.3 million from emergency services training, $1.2 million from aid for villages and $500,000 for social services.

Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Hempstead) said he urged his caucus to support the fee hikes once the funding of youth services and NICE bus services were threatened.

In addition to shifting revenue and expenses, Kaiman said, Mangano and the legislators can try to convince the authority that some of the revenue sources NIFA has judged as risky will actually come through. Those include $20 million from a proposed video casino and $10 million in sales tax revenue.

The budget also contains $60 million in borrowing for property tax refunds, which NIFA has said it will approve because the Legislature passed reforms to the tax certiorari system this year that will go into effect in 2017.

When NIFA formally took control of the county’s finances in January 2011, it expected them to be in order by this year, Kaiman said.

But with a hefty deficit risk this year and the county’s four-year financial plan holding an additional risk of $805.8 million, according to NIFA’s analysis, management of the county’s finances is approaching “a point of no return,” NIFA Board member Adam Haber said Thursday.

“It’s not going to be pretty, because the money’s not going to come out of thin air,” Haber said.

The authority has brought on Mark Page, former head of New York City’s Office of Management and Budget, to act as its financial adviser through the rest of the budget process.

NIFA also voted Thursday to retain a law firm in case it needs to defend its actions in court. Mangano sued over the 2011 takeover, but dropped the suit two months later.

“Although we’re hoping for peace, we’re preparing for war,” said Jeremy Wise, NIFA’s general counsel, at Thursday’s meeting.

The rejection of the budget came six days after the Legislature finally struck a 1.2-percent property tax increase, expected to raise $12 million in revenue, from the budget in a first-ever override of an executive veto.

Hours before the vote, Kaiman sent legislative leaders a second letter warning them NIFA would take action if the Legislature cut any more revenue from the budget.

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Noah Manskar And Joe Nikic

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