Curran braces for $261M Nassau budget deficit due to COVID-19

Curran braces for $261M Nassau budget deficit due to COVID-19
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said she anticipates a budget deficit of $261 million this year, according to a report from the county's Office of Management and Budget. (Photo courtesy of the county executive's office)

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran announced last week that county officials are anticipating a budget deficit of $261 million this year due to the coronavirus, according to a report from the county’s Office of Management and Budget.

The county is expected to see a revenue loss of $319.4 million from its $3.55 billion budget this year, the report said. The shortfall is estimated at $261 million due to the county not filling 331 vacant positions that were initially funded in the 2020 budget.

“This is where fiscal discipline is actually on our side,” Curran said about the expected losses. “We can apply the savings we got from being fiscally disciplined last year towards this crisis.”

Curran said one of the most significant revenue losses is from an anticipated $136.3 million decline of 10 percent in sales tax receipts.  Sales tax receipts, according to Curran, account for more than 40 percent of the county’s revenue.

“That 10 percent reduction will be painful — we will feel it,” she said.

Curran said more than half of the government’s expenses are to pay the county employees. Action has already been taken to deal with the projected deficit, according to Curran.

Figures provided by the Nassau Interim Finance Authority show the county’s deficit had been declining since a previous high of $189.2 million in 2014.

The chairman for the Finance Authority, Adam Barsky, told Newsday, “It’s good that the county is trying to assess the financial impact that the COVID response is having on county finances and it’s encouraging to see that they’re trying to put a plan together to address it.”

The county is projected to receive in excess of $66 million less in recreation fees, mortgage recording, and tax map verification; $31.5 million less in fines and fees like red-light tickets; and $31 million less in state aid.

A memo was issued, Curran said, to all department and agency heads throughout the county government to identify cost-saving opportunities. She has touted the work of the county government’s department heads throughout the pandemic.

“I want to make clear that as our county employees have stood by us in this difficult time, I will now stand by them,” Curran said. “Our team has done an incredible job of responding to this crisis, and we will continue to have their back.”

Curran announced an immediate freeze placed on hiring and non-essential purchases along with a “thorough review” of all the contracts the county maintains with other entities. 

Curran provided residents with a more comprehensive overview of Nassau County’s current state in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

As of Tuesday, the confirmed number of coronavirus cases in Nassau County had reached 35,085, according to figures provided by the state’s Department of Health.  Of that number, a total of 1,647 Nassau residents had died as a result of the coronavirus.

A total of 1,462 residents had been admitted into hospitals due to the coronavirus, 423 of whom currently reside in intensive care units.  The figures also show 341 people remained on ventilators, a decrease of 11 from the previous day.

Curran highlighted some of the county’s efforts in response to the pandemic, which include activating the county’s medical reserve corps of more than 1,000 volunteers, conducting virtual meetings with the county’s economic advisory council to keep track of the status of the impact on local businesses, partnering with health clinics to increase viral testing in the hardest hit minority areas, shutting down schools with the help of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, distributing and procuring personal protective equipment for first responders, and more.

“In this uncharted territory, Nassau County led the way. We followed the data and listened to the experts and with the help of all Nassau’s residents, we successfully controlled the spread of the virus,” Curran said.  “This wasn’t easy, and it’s come at a high cost. We now find ourselves in an extraordinary situation with mounting challenges.”

Curran, who also was appointed to the governor’s Reimagine New York Task Force, said she will continue to press congressional representatives such as Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) and Peter King (R-Seaford) to advocate for revenue recovery for local governments.

“We will do all we can to bounce back, but we need state and federal support to replace lost revenue,” Curran said. “I will continue to do all in my power to advocate for robust recovery aid, and I won’t rest until Nassau County gets the federal funds we need.”

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