Comptroller’s report: Nassau had a $27.2 million surplus in 21
Nassau County ended 2021 with a budget surplus of $27.2 million, posting a third consecutive year in the black due largely to higher-than-expected sales tax revenue, according to a new report from the office of the Nassau County Comptroller.
The report notes that the county collected $362.2 million more in sales tax revenue than it had planned for the year.
The surplus also comes from a temporary injection of federal pandemic relief funds and savings from debt refinancing, the report said.
“The county is in very good shape, financially, right now,” said Adam Barsky, chairman of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, which controls Nassau County’s finances.
The 2021 budget surplus, along with surpluses of $90.6 million in 2020 and $76.8 million in 2019, came after a series of annual deficits, including deficits of $61.2 million in 2018, $83.1 million in 2016 and $189.2 million in 2014, according to previous comptroller reports. .
County Executive Bruce Blakeman and County Comptroller Elaine Phillips, both Republicans, last week cited back-to-back surpluses when calling on NIFA, which was created under state law, to relinquish its oversight of county finances.
“There is no reason for NIFA to control any aspect of county finances,” Blakeman told Newsday. “Now we are probably the most creditworthy county in the United States.”
“By law, I don’t think Nassau County should be under a period of lockdown,” Phillips said. “The department is in a very strong financial position.”
Barsky said NIFA is still needed.
Barsky noted long-term challenges, such as the cost of future labor contracts with major county unions.
Nassau has not finalized new agreements with the Sheriff Correction Officers Benevolent Association, the Civil Service Employees Association or the Police Benevolent Association.
“It’s a question of how are they going to use [the surplus] funds are moving forward in a way that brings structural balance to the budget,” Barsky told Newsday.
“It all depends on how they use this windfall that they have,” Barsky said.
Barsky also pointed to the precarious finances of NuHealth, the public benefit corporation that operates the Nassau University Medical Center.
NuHealth posted an operating loss of $135.6 million in 2021, and Nassau County is supporting $131 million in hospital debt.
“It remains a significant risk to the county that we are monitoring,” Barsky said of the debt guarantee. “And that’s one of the reasons why we wouldn’t let them [Nassau County] exit the control period until the hospital plans are clear.
Phillips said the tax issues at the hospital are “an ongoing serious concern,” but said, “From a purely financial standpoint, the $131 million that the county would be obligated to…That’s not a number that the county could not absorb.”
NIFA was created to oversee Nassau County’s finances in 2000 after the county suffered a series of annual budget shortfalls.
As part of its mission, the state board was tasked with helping Nassau restructure hundreds of millions of dollars in high-interest debt.
NIFA implemented a “period of control” on January 26, 2011, under the administration of former County Executive Edward Mangano, a Republican.
NIFA officials, in instituting the control period, cited the county’s budget deficit of more than 1%, a trigger in state law.
During a period of scrutiny, NIFA’s seven-member board of directors can reject county loans, vendor contracts, and annual county budgets; give orders to certain county officials; and impose a wage freeze for the county workforce.
Barsky said the decision to end a period of scrutiny rests with NIFA’s board of directors.
“At the end of the day, it’s a decision for the board to make based on very many factors,” he told Newsday.
“It doesn’t seem to me that it makes much sense for the county to go into a period of control, then go out, then come back in again,” Barsky said.
“I also wonder how the county will fare in the absence of NIFA,” he said.
Barsky said the Board of Control has played a key role in improving Nassau’s finances by “rejecting unbalanced budget plans and borrowing for settlements and one-time expenses, and the [debt] refinancing that saved Nassau from massive deficits during the pandemic.”
Suffolk County, which does not have a state board of auditors, reported a surplus in its unrestricted fund balance of $192.4 million in 2021.
As in Nassau, this was largely due to higher-than-expected sales tax revenue, which totaled $1.836 billion, according to a report from the Suffolk County Comptroller’s Office, an increase of $346.8 million. dollars compared to 2020.
The sales tax figure beat budget expectations by $344.5 million, largely due to increased internet sales, vehicle fuel prices and household energy costs, according to the recent report.
With Candice Ferrette
NASSAU COUNTY SURPLUSES AND DEFICITS
2021: $27.2 million
2020: $90.6 million
2019: $76.8 million
2018: ($61.2 million)
2017: ($63.2 million)
2016: ($83.1 million)
2015: ($125.3 million)
2014: ($189.2 million)
Source: Nassau County Comptroller’s Office, Full Annual Financial Report