On Monday, the Nassau County Legislature greenlit County Executive Bruce Blakeman’s $4.1 billion budget for the 2024 year. The process, however, was not without its share of contention, as a Democratic effort to reduce the property tax levy by $128 million and strengthen law enforcement and Inspector General’s office staff was met with rejection from the Republican majority.
Presiding Officer Richard J. Nicolello (R- New Hyde Park) had many heated moments with Legislator Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport), telling him at one point he was “out of order” and asking, “Why can’t you control yourself for a few minutes?”
The exchange was stoked by a Democratic amendment to the budget proposing the usage of $128 million from the county reserves to reduce the property tax levy and result in a $400 cut in county property taxes for a household.
But that would have thrown county finances out of balance, Nicolello said, backed up by Andrew Persich, Nassau’s budget director, who said the county shouldn’t use reserve funds to pay the tax cut.
“At least stand on your position to be able to say we didn’t support them for X, Y, Z reasons, everybody would support that,” Abrahams said, “but it seems like to me you don’t even want the vote to happen. That to me boggles the mind because you give away your opportunity to explain your no vote.”
The Republican Party, maintaining their 12-7 majority, introduced their own amendment to the budget which would increase the number of police officers, superior officers, and assistant district attorneys. Specifically, this amendment incorporates the addition of 10 police officers, four superior officers, and two assistant district attorneys.
The 2024 budget maintains the property tax status quo by neither increasing nor decreasing property taxes. In terms of county spending, the budget allocates $180 million more than the previous year’s approved budget. With the Republican amendment now in place, it also includes provisions to recruit an additional 30 police officers.
“The zero-tax increase budget is a result of the solid fiscal management policies put into practice by the Legislative Majority and County Executive Bruce Blakeman that have also led to Nassau’s economic condition being in the best in shape in years,” the Majority Caucus, Republicans wrote in a press release. “Proof of that comes from a recent financial report from the State Comptroller’s Office that placed Nassau County among the top-ranked fiscally sound counties throughout New York State for the second year in a row.”
Wall Street’s leading credit agencies have upgraded the county’s bond ratings to their highest levels since 2005.
“Despite record high inflation impacting the cost of all services, I froze property taxes for two straight years while keeping my promise to cut $120 million in Democrat planned tax hikes and put more cops on the street than ever before,” Blakeman wrote on Facebook, “Yesterday, the county Legislature approved my second taxpayer protection budget. Promises made, promises kept!”
Some, however, were not pleased with the outcome.
“Today, the Republican Majority didn’t just say no to the Minority’s plan for tax cuts and more police for Nassau residents – they didn’t even have the courage to hold a vote,” said Abrahams in a press release. “Instead, they used unprecedented procedural tricks to shield their members from voting against our plan to cut property taxes by $128 million and fund 100 additional police officers – 25 of whom would have focused on addressing the spike in hate crimes in our county and across the nation.”
The Republican Legislative Majority has adhered to a steady tax record for 14 consecutive years. Not only have property taxes remained stagnant during this period, but they have successfully reduced the 2022 budget by $70 million. Planned tax increases for 2023, 2024, and 2025 have been averted, resulting in a substantial property tax cut of $200 million, a report from the Nassau Interim Finance Authority states.
The reduction is projected to persist until 2027.
The budget is now headed to the NIFA finance board for final approval, once approved, Blakeman will sign and officiate the amended budget.