Citizens for a Better Nassau
February 22, 2016 4:39 p.m,
From its formation, ‘Citizens for a Better Nassau County’ has been focused on sparking a dialogue on Nassau County’s fiscal status, keeping it honest and open. This is why our coalition is pleased to see local organizations learning about the fiscal climate and future of the county.
However, we believe it is important to clarify some of the things that were spoken about at a recent meeting of a newly formed Republican club where our clerk of the court addressed a crucial topic – the fiscal state of Nassau County. Our qualm is that the credit rating that Fitch Ratings awarded to Nassau County was highlighted out of context to show that “Nassau County is very fiscally strong,” while the warnings from Fitch Ratings in the same report and other credentialed, third-party analysis of the county’s deferred maintenance, capital budget and reserves, has been wholly ignored.
As Fitch Ratings, Purvis & Gray, and Burton & Associates have made abundantly clear, the fiscal problems Nassau County faces relate to a dwindling capital reserve account and deferred maintenance of roads, rolling stock and other infrastructure.
For example, Nassau County must maintain more than 800 miles of road with more than half of them being dirt roads, 36 bridges, 46 buildings (soon to be 48 with the new Sheriff’s Complex and Emergency Operations Center) and 28 parks, among other infrastructure. Yet, the county is currently budgeting zero dollars for road maintenance and to maintain many other depreciating capital assets taxpayers have invested in. In fact, many of these assets are fully depreciated and in deplorable condition. Just like residential taxpayers have to maintain their cars and homes to avoid larger bills later, so does the county. It cannot indefinitely defer maintenance. These bills will come due and, in a county overly dependent upon residential property taxes to fund all government services, we’ll all be on the hook for it.
While not recognized by many, the county has worked very hard over the last six years on cost containment and has eliminated roughly 70 staff positions. That is also unsustainable in a growing county unless we’re willing to accept fewer services. In his presentation, the clerk of the court stated the county would be debt free in 16 years. Now that you’ve heard “the rest of the story,” do you really believe we’re on firm financial footing? If we don’t want to increase the burden on residential taxpayers, we must attract private capital investment and high-wage jobs to broaden and diversify our tax base.
We encourage those who have not yet heard about the county’s true fiscal condition to join us in the dialogue by visiting the ‘Citizens for a Better Nassau County’ website at CitizensforaBetterNassau.com. There, you can look to the Resources Page to find information from Fitch Ratings, Purvis & Gray, and Burton & Associates on what they have said in their own words about the financial condition of the county.
We believe that informed citizens truly do make better, stronger and more prosperous communities, and we also believe that our citizens deserve the unvarnished truth from our elected leaders.
Editor’s Note: Bill Gingrich is a local retiree who has lived in Nassau County for more than 20 years. He spent more than 30 years with General Electric and retired as a senior executive. He has served on a number of local boards and is a member of the ‘Citizens for a Better Nassau County’ coalition.