NIFA signs off on county budget, borrowing and police academy

Janelle Clausen
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran

The Nassau County Interim Finance Authority, or NIFA, signed off on County Executive Laura Curran’s $3.07 billion budget on Tuesday night, the final sign off on a budget approved by the legislature on Nov. 19.

NIFA Executive Director Evan Cohen said that his staff projects a $59.1 million worth of risk for fiscal 2019, but also noted the County has made “notable progress in realigning its finances and reducing the size of its deficits since peaking in 2014,” according to draft minutes of Tuesday night’s NIFA meeting.

Paired with the budget approval was authorization to borrow up to $100 million to help handle a backlog of $360 million worth of unpaid certiorari claims, following NIFA’s directors concluding that “a new and aggressive set of measures are being taken to finally bring this problem under control,” according to draft minutes.

“We have NIFA’s support because our reassessment plan is credible,” Curran said on Wednesday. “NIFA’s approval of my ‘no property tax increase’ budget and this bonding is part of my comprehensive plan to fix assessment. We are taking critical steps to restore the County’s fiscal health.”

Nassau’s assessment rolls have not been updated since 2011, when then-County Executive Edward Mangano’s administration froze assessment levels. In that time, thousands of residents filed grievances on the value of their homes. This, in turn, cost the county millions in taxes while putting a higher burden onto people who did not challenge the assessed values of their home.

Curran came into office with a promise to fix the assessment system and make it fairer. In March, she unfroze the assessment roll and then moved to reassess every parcel in Nassau County at a 0.10 percent level of assessment rather than the 0.25 percent rate.

Currently, she is working with the state Legislature to transition the tax impact changes on residential properties over a five-year span. The Nassau County Legislature also recently passed a law requiring assessment notices include the tax impact on individual property owners.

“It is tempting to play it safe and just keep kicking the can down the road,” Curran wrote in a letter to Newsday on Nov. 21. “But I know a transition over at least five years to new assessments will put the county on the right path for our future and our children’s future.”

NIFA also signed off on a new Nassau County Police Department facility at Nassau Community College, a project in progress for nearly 10 years.

The group approved the county’s $42.97 million contract with E&A Restoration Inc. to construct the 90,000-square foot facility, which is expected to cost about $54 million.

Among its features will be an Asset Forfeiture and Intelligence Lead Development Center, a 500-seat auditorium, a training and tactics warehouse, 10 multi-purpose classrooms that can be combined into five 70-person rooms for training, and an emergency vehicle operations course, according to Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder.

Nassau Community College could become home to a $54 million police academy for the Nassau County Police Department. (Photo rendering by Spector Group)
Nassau Community College could become home to a $54 million police academy for the Nassau County Police Department. (Photo rendering by Spector Group)

“This new facility will not only benefit our membership but our federal, state and village law enforcement partners,” Ryder said in a statement Wednesday. “The Nassau County Police Department has always been a world-class law enforcement organization; however it has been many decades since we had a training facility worthy of our membership.”

Nassau Community College officials also previously said that students – particularly those in the realm of health, nursing and criminal science – will have “hands-on learning opportunities” within the facility.

Currently, the police department leases space at the former Hawthorne Elementary School in Massapequa Park for about $700,000 each year.

Both Democrats and Republicans in the legislature have expressed support for the new academy.

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