Nassau GOP majority in Legislature subpoenas Curran administration for budget documents

Robert Pelaez
Subpoenas were submitted to the administration of County Executive Laura Curran to analyze budget documents on Monday. (Photo courtesy of the county executive's office)

Nassau County’s Republican legislative majority subpoenaed County Executive Laura Curran’s administration on Monday to analyze her plan to use the Nassau Interim Finance Authority to combat the looming debt the county faces due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Today we served subpoenas on the administration and its financial consultant seeking information as to alternatives to the massive refinancing plan proposed by the administration and NIFA,” Nassau County Presiding Officer Rich Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) said. “We are not prejudging any potential plan to address the county’s fiscal difficulties resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. However, as the county’s elected representatives, we must review all possible options.”

Curran said she will ask the Nassau Interim Finance Authority to aid in efforts to combat a $749 million deficit the county faces over the next 18 months.

The county faces a deficit of $385 million in the 2020 fiscal year and $364 million in the 2021 fiscal year due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the county’s multiyear financial plan released last week.

Nicolello said the Curran administration had previously denied the legislative majority the opportunity to review the plan set forth by the county executive.

“The administration has refused for months to provide us with an analysis of these options, but has instead sought to ram through a refinancing plan that will burden residents with hundreds of millions in debt service and bureaucratic costs through 2051,” Nicolello said.

Nicolello signed the three subpoenas, which sought financial statements from the county’s budget director, Raymond Orlando, and county consultants Public Financial Management.

The subpoenas requested that the parties appear before the legislative committee on Aug. 10 and submit “all final and non-final analysis, documents, records, and reports” relating to the plan Curran set forth in early July.

“As with every arbitrary, taxpayer funded political fishing expedition that Republican legislators decide to voyage on, the County Executive’s administration will again explain to the legislature the financial tsunami that has engulfed the County, along with the rest of the country,” county spokesperson Michael Fricchione told Newsday. “Nassau County’s Office of Management and Budget briefed the legislature on a fiscally responsible plan to put Nassau County back on stable financial footing over month ago and has yet to receive any alternative proposals for solving the unprecedented fiscal crisis.”

Efforts to reach the county executive for comment were unavailing.

County officials announced that programs to close the budget gap have been prepared that rely on the finance authority to refinance $75 million of existing county debt in the fiscal year 2020 and another $210 million next fiscal year.

“Our residents and businesses are facing difficult times and the county’s services that support the health and safety of residents are in high demand,” Curran said. “Whatever the crisis may be, my administration will always meet the challenge of protecting our residents, but we will need a balanced budget to do so.”

“Our sales tax collections in FY2020 are projected to decline by 20% because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Orlando said. “Nassau County has developed a gap-closing plan to address these unprecedented deficits.”

According to officials, Curran discussed the plan with leaders from the majority and minority caucuses in the county Legislature and hopes to continue to have more in-depth briefings so the county can deal with the financial crisis in the most effective way.

According to figures provided by Maurice Chalmers, director of Nassau County’s Office of Legislative Budget Review, the average annual increase of the county’s expenses for the Nassau Interim Finance Authority from 2008 to 2019 was 8.7 percent.

If that same average is applied for the next 30 years of Nassau Interim Finance Authority expenses, the county will spend a total of more than $257 million, according to the figures. With no escalation from the county’s 2020 $2 million allocations for expenses, it would be a total of $60 million.

According to the plan, the county will use $112 million in budget surplus funds from last year.  County officials said Curran will submit her executive budget for the fiscal year 2021 no later than Sept. 15, and it will include a detailed plan for a balanced budget along with updates.

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