Altmann Hears Testimony from Comptroller Weitzman & others on County's Finances
Legislator Altmann says tax increase may be necessary for continued fiscal health
Nassau County Legislator Lisanne Altmann (D-Great Neck) said a 4 percent tax increase or a cut in services in the 2008 County budget may be inevitable after Nassau County Comptroller Howard Weitzman’s second quarter budget report indicated that anticipated revenues may come up short in 2007. Altmann, chair of the Legislature’s Budget Review Committee, held a second quarter budget hearing this week.
Weitzman’s said that he anticipates 2007 finishing on budget or with a small surplus so long as the County continues to take aggressive measures to control expenditures. However, Weitzman’s report indicated that the administration’s use of reserve funds to pay operating expenses cannot be relied on in the future, as surpluses have decreased from $214.5 million in 2005 to a projected $77.7 million by year’s end.
“Right now, we are on solid financial footing, but it’s obvious from the Comptroller’s report that the future is not as rosy as one would hope,” Altmann said. “There are looming issues with the County’s finances that need to be addressed by either a tax increase or budget cuts. It’s the only way to ensure the fiscal solvency of Nassau County.”
Weitzman also said that the surplus could shrink if a budgeted 3.9 percent increase in sales tax receipts, which contribute roughly 42 percent of county revenue, comes in lower than expected. For the first half of 2007, sales tax receipts only increased 1.9 percent.
Additional financial problems stem from retirement pay for 99 members of the Police Department, which already exceeds the budgeted amount by $12.9 million, a pension contribution of $100 million a year that started in 2005, and $50 in real estate tax refunds since 2006.
“Though it might be the unpopular choice, we may have no other options than to raise property taxes 4 percent,” Altmann said. “This administration has done a fantastic job with the financial mess it was handed six years ago, all while holding the line on taxes for the last four years. The time has come, however, to understand that to hold on to that financial health, a tax increase may be necessary.”