Citizens for a Better Nassau – Nassau County ignores maintenance on roads, rolling stock, and infrastructure

Bill Gingrich
Citizens for a Better Nassau

February 22, 2016 4:39 p.m,

Citizens for Better NassauFrom 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 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.

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Robert Warner
Robert Warner (@guest_46811)
8 years ago

To me, it’s about setting our sights higher than lower, taking reasonable and responsible risks, and doing our best to let those that gain from our joint efforts and joint risk taking, pay their way – environmentally and economically. There are a variety of different tax structures that can be used – but the details are out of my pay grade. It’s easy to crawl into a hole. A googled graphic display of various alternative tax structures is below. Faith in ourselves, care for our environment, and faith in our future should be the lode star.

Mike Boyle
Mike Boyle(@mikemikeboyle-org)
8 years ago

First of all, Bill Gingrich and his associates should be praised and thanked for trying to ensure the taxpayers of Nassau County have accurate and realistic data upon which to form their opinions on the fiscal health of our county government. Don’t forget, ignoring the facts (as the Clerk does) doesn’t change the facts.

Let’s take a quick look at the source of these two disparate financial views. On one hand you have the county’s Office of Management and Budget headed by two professional employees, County Manager Ted Selby and Ass’t. County Manager Shanea Jones. Both have MBA Degrees and many years of local government experience, and both have only one motivating factor; serving and educating the taxpayers to the best of the abilities. They do not run for reelection in order to keep their jobs, and their is no incentive to mislead the voters. They are professional public servants, not elected partisan politicians.

Compare their qualifications to the County Clerk and his executive staff. If you’re not sure what those qualifications are, I urge you to find out. Contrary to what the Clerk likes to tell everyone. he is NOT the county’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO), at best he’s the county’s auditor (still an important and necessary position). He does not have the qualifications, education, or experience to be offering complex financial advice (as a CFO would) to a $150 million governmental entity.

Case in point is the current discussion sparked by the Clerk’s statements that the county has no financial problems, and our future is rosy and uncomplicated. Then Bill Gingrich and his merry band of realists pops the clerk’s party balloons by pointing out the county’s reserves are basically gone, and there isn’t a single dollar set aside for maintenance of roads, bridges, and other infrastructure like buildings. It’s like checking your bank balance just after your paycheck or Social Security deposit has cleared. “Martha, we’re rich! Look at our bank balance! Yes, John, but don’t forget we have to take out the rent, car payment, utilities, etc., etc.,”

So how do you choose which source to believe? On one hand you have the Clerk who refuses to give :bad news (even when it’s warranted), and on the other hand you have the consummate professionals (County Staff) who say, “Here are the facts (the good, the bad, and the ugly), tells us what you want us to do.”

To put it in perspective, consider you are going to buy a significant piece of jewelry for your wedding anniversary. So you go to a reputable jeweler on Centre Street and tell the jewelry professional what you are looking for, and how much you can afford. He shows you several pieces that fit your criteria, and while they are not as fancy as you had hoped, they are within your budget.

You decide to think it over, and leave the store where you hear from the shadows, “Pssst, over here.” A man appears from the shadows and opens his coat to reveal watches, rings, and bracelets pinned to the lining, and says, “Aren’t these more to your liking? Sure, they’re more expensive, but you don’t have to worry, you have lots of money in your checking account.”

Whom will you choose? The professional jeweler you’ve trusted for years, or the voice in the shadows that tells you only what you want to hear? If the professional advice you’re receiving is “too good to be true,” it probably isn’t worth considering. Trust the professional financial experts on the county staff, not the professional politicians who are only looking forward to their next campaign.

Mike Boyle

Robert Warner
Robert Warner (@guest_46815)
8 years ago

Mike Boyle just called it.