In a matter of minutes, Nassau lawmakers blew up $ 106 million in the county budget

It took less than half an hour last Friday for Nassau’s legislature to riddle about county administrator Laura Curran’s budget proposal with gaps.

The $ 55 public safety fee was attached to traffic tickets?

Blam.

It’s out there.

Then the property verification fee is $ 355, and everything except $ 50 of Nassau’s $ 300 mortgage registration fee.

All in all, lawmakers, with Republicans voting in favor and Democrats – no fools, in an election year – abstained, saying Curran’s revenue projections eased by about $ 106 million.

That should make the next few weeks interesting.

The county charter says budgets must be balanced.

With revenue matching expenses.

But especially in the 1990s, it did not always happen.

One year, then-Nassau County Executive Thomas Gulotta, who met with a group of Newsday writers, asked his budget director to put a copy of his proposed budget on a conference table.

It was a scary stack of computer prints, almost a foot deep.

One writer – OK, it was me – turned that monster over to look at the last line, which showed that the proposed expenses far exceeded the proposed revenues.

But that was before Nassau agreed to a board of directors for financial control.

And before the establishment of the county’s independent legislative budget review office.

And well before a change in the Charter, lawmakers were required to vote on tax increases before, rather than after election day.

Yes, for years, lawmakers and county governors would implement budgets and boast that they did not have significant tax increases – only to increase property taxes in the weeks after the election.

The charter change should make the process more transparent.

Instead, it has made what is usually considered a tedious process much more interesting.

This year could only top them all.

Move: Curran proposes $ 375 payments to qualified county residents.

Countermeasures: The Republican majority in the legislature is proposing significant cuts in fees that, ironically, had been introduced to stop gaps in the budgets of former GOP administrations.

Move: Curran proposes millions of dollars in property tax cuts spread over several years.

Counter Move: GOP stops payments of $ 375 and switches to fees.

Will Curran sign the fee law?

Or will she veto it?

And how will her administration deal with the fresh new gaps in Curran’s budget proposal?

Last week, in an effort to prevent Republican action, Curran proposed setting up a committee to consider the best way to slowly rid residents of the mixed fees – one of which had been declared unconstitutional by a judge – while he found other sources of income to replace them.

It went nowhere during an emergency meeting on fees and other issues on Friday.

“Today we have an opportunity to provide lasting financial relief to taxpayers,” Republican Majority Leader Richard Nicolello said during the meeting.

“We regret what your side created,” said Kevan Abrahams, the Democratic minority leader, “but we do it in a fiscally irresponsible way.”

Nassau began assessing fees and adding more and more of them under former GOP County Executive Edward Mangano, as a way to avoid property tax increases.

The idea was that only those who e.g. Needed to take out a mortgage or received a traffic ticket, would pay them – which as an official noted many years ago, “a user fee.”

But fees must not exceed the cost of services – such as. Registering a Mortgage Loan or Dealing with Traffic Offenses – Why Some Legal Challenges Have Been Successful.

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking for Curran and lawmakers to adopt a budget – which must also pass muster with the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, the county’s financial control board.

The deadline is midnight, Halloween.

It is nine days after the start of the early voting on 23 October.

And two days before November 2, election day.

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