Third Straight No-Property-Tax-Increase Budget Would Preserve Essential Services and Protect County Workforce Through Restructuring of Debt, Targeted CutsCurran Continues Commitment to Community Policing, Infrastructure, and Mental Health Care
NASSAU COUNTY, NY – Nassau County Executive Laura Curran today submitted the County’s proposed $3.286 billion 2021 budget and proposed 2021-2024 multi-year financial plan. The proposed plan follows through on the three core objectives County Executive Curran set in her State of the County 2020 address: maintaining fiscal discipline, providing a no property tax increase budget, and ensuring adequate resources for the Department of Health, law enforcement and first responders to maintain public health and safety.
County Executive Curran has balanced the proposed budget with targeted cuts and the restructuring of debt through the Nassau County Interim Finance Authority (NIFA), while maintaining critical social services and protecting the County workforce from layoffs. The proposed budget also increases funding for vital public safety and public health priorities, such as the expansion of Nassau’s Problem-Oriented Police Unit, the Community Affairs Unit, the Mental Health Mobile Care Crisis Team, and the Police Activity League.
“The pandemic has plunged Nassau and other local economies into a steep and unprecedented financial crisis, and my budget reflects this emergency. Today, I’m proposing a responsible plan that will keep Nassau safe, healthy, and strong as we continue to navigate stormy waters. With shared commitment and the resilient spirit Nassau residents have demonstrated throughout this crisis, I’m confident we’ll emerge stronger in the years ahead,” said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting worldwide economic crisis, the County’s finances were strong. The County was poised this year to emerge from the control period NIFA imposed in 2011, as the County ended 2019 with a surplus of $76.8 million as measured by NIFA. The Curran Administration’s fiscal discipline has thus far allowed the County to maintain services and staffing levels throughout the crisis.
To preserve essential services to County residents and keep the County workforce at necessary levels, the budget includes $285 million in savings from NIFA’s restructuring of outstanding NIFA and County bonds maturing in 2021, while the multi-year financial plan adds $150 million of restructuring savings in 2022. In addition to efficiencies from having only one transaction, a combined restructuring would produce the best financial results for the County due to current low interest rates and future economic uncertainty. This approach would also generate potential resources for future labor costs as identified in the proposed budget and multi-year financial plan. Thus, the declaration of need to NIFA for the restructuring that the County Executive filed for legislative approval covers both 2021 and 2022 restructured debt, which also requests that NIFA refund other County bonds for present value savings.
“Restructuring bonds would not be necessary or justifiable in an ordinary year. Extraordinary times as these, however, call for this extraordinary, yet targeted and appropriate, measures,” said County Executive Curran.
Despite a projected 2020 mid-year deficit of $385 million due to the pandemic’s unprecedented impacts on sales tax (and other revenues) and emergency-related expenses, the County projects that it will end this year in budgetary balance. The 2020 gap-closing plan combines the use of $112 million of fund balance, $103 million of federal CARES Act funding, $75 million from NIFA debt extension, $25 million in expense controls, $38 million in dedicated monies to fund litigation and workers’ compensation expenses and $32 million from the close out of completed or abandoned capital projects.
“Our fiscal integrity over the past two years has paid off, allowing the County to weather an unprecedented financial crisis, while maintaining services and staffing levels – and still projecting to end 2020 with a balanced budget,” noted County Executive Curran.
Below is a breakdown of County Executive Curran’s budget:
Highlights of Proposed 2021 Budget and 2021-2024 Multi-Year Financial Plan
2021 Proposed Budget (in thousands)
Salaries, Wages & Fees
Local Govt. Assistance
Budget balance for 2021 and 2022 depends on NIFA restructuring certain outstanding NIFA and County bonds pursuant to New York State legislation enacted to help the County close budget gaps created by the coronavirus pandemic. In 2021, NIFA would restructure approximately $240 million of NIFA bonds ($75 million of which having been extended from 2020 to 2021) and approximately $120 million of County bonds to generate approximately $285 million of net debt service savings. The 2022 restructuring would produce approximately $150 million in savings. The administration continues to work with the Legislature and NIFA, and our financial advisors, to determine the final structure and timing of the restructuring.
To fill the $285 million budget gap that would ensue from not approving a budget and financial plan that includes the restructuring, the Legislature would have to identify budget cuts across all agencies and departments, drastically reducing the quality and availability of County services that businesses, residents and taxpayers demand and deserve. It is certain that budget cuts of this magnitude would require significant staffing reductions in all departments.
Most of the County’s expenses are nondiscretionary, including:
Fringe benefits – Once employees are hired, they are eligible for County-provided health care insurance and pension contributions.
Step increases – Collective bargaining agreements require mandatory annual pay increases for certain employees.
Health and human services – Caseloads must be funded for various benefit programs.
The dedicated and professional members of Nassau County law enforcement, both sworn and civilian, enable our residents to live in one of the safest, largest communities in the country. To sustain this level of public safety, the County has implemented a program of steady hiring to ensure the Police Department remains strong, in anticipation of attrition through retirements.
Police Department – The proposed budget funds additional classes of up to 200 recruits to support the department to offset anticipated attrition and facilitate lower costs. It maintains sworn headcount of 2,500 consistent with the 2020 level and minimum manning dictates. To further foster positive police-community relations, the Police Activity League (PAL) of the Police Department’s Community Affairs Unit includes three additional PAL offices. This unit has also trained 20 officers in bike patrol. Additionally, the Problem Oriented Policing (POP) Unit in Community Affairs increased from two to three officers in each precinct (for a total of 24 POP officers). The POP unit also now has an Inspector assigned as Coordinator and each POP officer is assigned a member of the Youth Advisory Council, which consists of young leaders committed to criminal justice issues and improving police-community relations.
Sheriff’s Department – The proposed budget funds a class of up to 40 correction officers. While the inmate population is decreasing, hiring is needed to keep pace with attrition.
Probation Department – The proposed budget anticipates the hiring of seven new staff for the Juvenile Detention Center (to comply with raise the age requirements) and the Electronic Monitoring Unit (to comply with bail reform measures).
Traffic & Parking Violations Agency – The proposed budget contemplates new revenue from the ticket reconciliation program.
Office of Crime Victims Advocate (OCVA) – The County fully supports OCVA, which was created to ensure that victims of crime and witnesses to crime in the County are afforded all their legal rights and protections and receive appropriate assistance. Six staff are planned for this office.
Office of the Medical Examiner (OME) – The proposed budget adds seven staff members to help the County meet the requirements of recent New York State criminal justice legislation as it impacts the crime and toxicology lab. Additional staffing includes a firearms expert and DNA and chemistry personnel to assist with discovery reform. Separately, the OME is fully staffed to support any COVID-19 related needs.
Health and Human Services
The County is committed to the mental health wellness of its residents. The proposed budget includes additional staffing in the Department of Human Services consistent with the new efforts under the Governor’s executive order on police reform. This includes the hiring of two psychiatric social workers to aid the Police Department in managing a Mental Health Mobile Crisis Team responding to 911 emergency calls involving residents under mental health duress and who may be a danger to themselves or others. The Veterans Services Agency will add one female counselor to its staff to replace the veteran female counselor who resigned in 2019.
As the County continues to experience the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, it anticipates an increased need for public assistance services provided by the Department of Social Services. With an end to the $600 in weekly additional unemployment checks in July 2020, the County is providing eligible residents with relevant social services information and options. As applications for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and housing assistance have increased during the pandemic, the County intends to add social welfare examiners and caseworkers to process and manage the influx of applications and cases.
The County continues to focus on the development of affordable and fair housing and promote its model housing ordinance, while working closely with municipal partners and private and non-profit developers. Part of this comprehensive strategy involves preserving housing options for seniors, disabled residents and families on limited budgets. As local administrator of the Housing Choice Voucher Program through New York State, the County helps lower-income residents secure decent, safe and sanitary housing in the private rental market. The proposed budget also ensures that the Human Rights Commission can continue to address housing discrimination.
The proposed budget continues to promote opportunities for minority communities in the County. It provides staffing for the Offices of Minority Affairs (OMA), the Office of Hispanic Affairs and the Office of Asian American Affairs to meet each office’s mission, including an attorney at OMA. These offices continue to work collaboratively in promoting business opportunities, cultural awareness and inclusiveness and important initiatives such as the bi-county disparity study.
Parks and Public Works
As COVID-19 restrictions on parks activities have been eased or lifted, the County has reopened recreational facilities for residents to enjoy, including golf, beaches, pools and other facilities.
Although the pandemic has strained the County’s financial options in many ways, it cannot afford to step back from necessary infrastructure improvements.
The state-of-the-art, multi-purpose Nassau County Training and Intelligence Center is on track for a 2021 opening. This bond-financed facility will provide police, correction officer and probation officer training and community engagement, and will be made available to other local jurisdictions as part of the County’s commitment to inter-municipal cooperation.
While transit services have been significantly affected by the pandemic, the County is dedicated to providing needed mobility services to its residents. Although there will be slight changes in the frequency and duration of services, full-service restoration will happen if Federal Transit Administration aid is released.
The County continues to move forward with modernizing processes to save money and increase efficiencies. The Department of Information Technology is fully funded in the proposed budget, as automation of County functions remains a priority. The new Peoplesoft system is being rolled out, which is revolutionizing the County’s human resources management function, replacing multiple outdated software packages with a single, more user-friendly system. The new system will eventually enable improved tracking and reporting of employee time and improve Fair Labor Standards Act compliance.