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Nassau Comptroller to Mangano, NIFA: Play Nice

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Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos said Friday that County Executive Ed Mangano and the Nassau Interim Finance Authority should stop fighting and fix the budget deficit (Long Island Press/Jim Mancari).
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Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos said Friday that County Executive Ed Mangano and the Nassau Interim Finance Authority should stop fighting and fix the budget deficit (Long Island Press/Jim Mancari).

Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos called Friday for “decisive action and cooperation” between the County Executive Ed Mangano and a state board that took over the county’s troubled finances as the county’s latest budget outlook worsened.

Maragos released his mid-year report, which found that a projected $42 million deficit could increase to $140 million by year’s end if attempts to close the budget gap don’t materialize. That analysis came as the Nassau Interim Finance Authority panned Mangano’s revised long-term plan for the $2.2 billion budget after predicting next year’s deficit could rise to $225 million. Mangano told NIFA to offer solutions, not criticism.

The bickering came four days before Nassau voters will be asked in a referendum if they approve of the county borrowing $400 million to rebuild the aging Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum and build a minor-league baseball park nearby.

“It is imperative that they act quickly to do so as we are already at mid-year,” Maragos said at a news conference in his Mineola office.

NIFA said Mangano’s latest budget plan, which was due Thursday, failed to take the board’s direction, thereby violating state law.

“The reply submitted by the county ignores NIFA’s direction to remove questionable revenues,” the panel said in a statement. Among the chief concerns was the continued counting of borrowed money as revenue—a practice that prompted the initial state takeover.

Mangano reiterated his stance that he believes NIFA is conspiring to force him to raise property taxes in violation of his campaign promise.

“The time is now for NIFA to provide solutions to the problems that arose on their watch,” he said in a statement.

Mangano had previously ordered deep cuts in the county budget, laid off more than 130 employees and asked NIFA to freeze wages to close an earlier budget gap. NIFA was created in 2000, the last time the county was in similar fiscal trouble. The problems stem mostly from a broken tax assessment system that has bled about $100 million annually for decades.

Despite the rancor, deep-seated financial issues and the fact that the state legislature has not approved new red light cameras or ticket surcharges, Maragos said he thinks closing this year’s deficit is “quite manageable” through debt restructuring, non-tax revenue and strategic technology deployment.

“Without new revenue, the county will continue to struggle to balance its budget year after year, especially with the continued decreases in state and federal aid.”

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