Nassau County is in a state of a fiscal crisis, bordering on “fiscal emergency, due to the previous eight years of mismanagement,” according to Nassau County Comptroller Jack Schnirman, who released an audit of the county’s annual financial status this week.
According to the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, Nassau ended 2017 with a $122 million deficit, a negative $68 million rainy-day fund, outstanding tax-certiorari liabilities topping $500 million and litigation liabilities rising to nearly $400 million. Schnirman also reported that the county still owes more than $200 million in liabilities to the New York State Pension System.
The report, detailing the extent of the county’s financial crisis, was delivered to the Office of the County Executive and Legislature. According to a release put out by Schnirman, the report includes audited figures from the county’s in-house accounting team that were reviewed by the county’s independent external auditing firm. The findings will be reviewed by a newly revitalized Independent Audit Advisory Committee, which includes five Nassau County residents with decades of finance, audit and accounting experience, who will make recommendations.
“The county’s ability to function as an effective government for the people is in jeopardy, and our ability to borrow money or cover an unexpected catastrophic event is severely limited,” Schnirman said. He also stressed that the county’s financial tracking and payroll processing software are “severely outdated, inefficient and on the verge of crashing.”
Schnirman went on to say that previous financial reports of the county’s finances included “multiple sets of numbers, which created confusion as to the county’s overall fiscal standing.” What’s more, the county did not borrow as budgeted to fund tax-certiorari liabilities, which resulted in a $60 million reduction in other financing sources for fiscal year 2017. Lastly, the county experienced significantly less revenue than expected, including $3 million less from Nassau OTB and $6.3 million less from the Federal Transit Authority. Police termination pay also cost $30 million more than budgeted. Sales-tax revenue, however, was $9 million higher than budgeted.
“We must reimagine how government does business in Nassau County. The same old excuses and tired solutions will no longer cut it,” Schnirman said.