Curran to undertake 60-day budget analysis

Long Island Herald

New County Executive Laura Curran took aim at Nassau’s previous administration, headed by Ed Mangano, and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone set his sights on the Trump administration in their speeches before more than a thousand members of the Long Island Association, one of the Island’s largest business groups, on Friday.

Their remarks came at the LIA’s annual State of the Region Breakfast at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury.

Joking that she had only been on the job two weeks and already had “one epic snowstorm under my belt,” Curran said that she has “inherited a mess,” which she referred to as a “malaise.”

That malaise, she said, “is beginning to lift.”

The Nassau Interim Finance Authority recently ordered $18 million in cuts to Nassau’s budget. It was the first time that the state panel, a public benefit corporation, demanded reductions of the county since it was formed in 2000.

Curran said one of her first acts as county executive was to order a “60-day critical analysis” of all county departments. All managers, she said, were tasked with assessing staffing levels and performance measures to achieve savings when and where possible.

She has also formed a task force that is responsible for tackling Nassau’s broken assessment system. The county’s property assessments have been frozen since 2011, by order of the previous administration. Curran has tapped Helena Williams, her chief deputy county executive, and formerly president of the Long Island Rail Road, to head the task force and determine precisely what effect freezing the assessments has had on the county’s finances.

Myriad discrepancies and inaccuracies in the assessment system have long been thought to cost the county tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions, of dollars, while also leading to unequal assessments that benefit those savvy enough to hire large reassessment law firms that specialize in challenging assessments. (Those who do not file tax certiorari often pay hundreds, if not thousands, more in property taxes.)

Curran also spoke of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s recent announcement that the state was awarding development rights at Belmont Park in Elmont to the Islanders.

The Islanders, the county executive said, “will be coming home to Nassau County.”

There will likely be an interim period between the time the franchise moves out of the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and a new 18,000-seat stadium is completed at Belmont. During that time, Curran said, she “desperately” wants Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale to be the Islanders’ temporary home.

The Islanders reportedly plan to play at the Barclays Center for the 2018-19 season, but the team is seeking a way out of its lease agreement at the center. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman recently toured the Coliseum with Curran, Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky, Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment CEO Brett Yormark and LIA Chief Executive Officer Kevin Law to assess whether the arena could act as the Islanders’ temporary home.

Calling Nassau and Suffolk counties “one region,” Bellone said he was “excited by the possibility” of working with Curran. Both are Democrats. Mangano was a Republican who was indicted on federal corruption charges in 2016.

Bellone railed against the Trump administration during his 20-minute speech. “We absolutely crashed into 2018 going 80 miles an hour,” he said.

The Suffolk executive spoke at length on the recent GOP tax plan that limits state and local (property) tax deductions to $10,000 annually. Reducing those deductions, he said, led to chaos at the end of 2017 as thousands of Long Islanders “scrambled” to pay part of their 2018 property-tax bills ahead of time and possibly lower their federal tax burden this year.

Bellone said that he “never could have imagined” federal legislation that would nix deductions for state and local taxes, adding that every member of Long Island’s congressional delegation, both Democrats and Republicans, voted against the GOP tax plan.

Business Insider, he said, analyzed which regions across the U.S. would be most affected — negatively impacted — by the legislation. Long Island came out on top.

The Island sends $23 billion more in federal taxes to Washington than it receives in aid, Bellone said. In effect, he said, the Island will “subsidize tax cuts in other regions of the country.”

“While we did lose the battle in the short term,” he noted, “we will not stop fighting for our region.”

Bellone also spoke on Trump’s elimination of temporary protected status for 200,000 Salvadorans across the U.S. who have been living here as refugees to escape civil war and natural disasters. Fourteen thousand of those Salvadorans, who are now facing potential deportation, live on Long Island, Bellone said.

“This is wrong,” the county executive said. “These are people … and they own homes .. and they pay taxes here. They call us neighbors, and we call them neighbors as well.”

Salvadorans under the TPS program hold 4,000 mortgages in Nassau and Suffolk counties, Bellone said.