Nassau and Suffolk counties are planning to issue short-term notes and sharply raise property taxes if New York lawmakers reject requests for permission to cover fiscal 1992 budget gaps through deficit bonding, county officials said.
Those backup plans came to light after the state Legislatures ended its 1992 session deadlocked over the bonding requests and a number of other issues. Both Long Island counties face large projected budget gaps for fiscal 1992, which ends Dec. 31.
One Nassau County finance official, who insisted on anonymity, said the county would likely issue some mixture of budget notes and revenue anticipation notes to go along with a sharp property tax increase to cover the county's projected $131 million 1992 budget shortfall. The official said the county has not developed formal plans to issue these securities or to increase property taxes.
In Suffolk, county officials have developed a more specific agenda. One county finance official, who also requested anonymity, said the county would likely issue between $50 million and $60 million in budget notes to supplement a large property tax increases in closing its estimated $91 million budget gap.
Spokesman for both of these affluent New York City suburbs said county officials would like to avoid issuance of short-term securities to cover their budget gaps.
Although the issuance of budget notes does not need state legislative approval, the securities must be repaid within a short period of time, often a year after issuance, with either a corresponding budget cut or a property tax increase. In addition, counties are restricted by state law from issuing budget notes in excess of 5% of its budget.
Given the size of the budget gaps in Nassau and Suffolk counties, officials there would almost certainly be forced to sharply increase property taxes - which are among the highest in the nation - and cut deeply into their municipal work force.
At the moment, the Nassau and Suffolk deficit bonding plans are just some of the issues being discussed by the staffs of the Republican-controlled state Senate and the Democratically dominated state Assembly. A host of local finance matters are being considered, including a bill renewing New York City's authority to sell debt on a negotiated basis.
Legislative sources say there is an outside chance lawmakers may agree on a compromise for all the financing issues before the end of the week. These sources added that lawmakers will likely postpone a deal until after the conclusion of next week's Democratic National Convention in New York City.
Nassau County is attempting to gain state approval to issue up to $71 million in five-year deficit bonds and double its mortgage tax to 2% to cover the gap in its $1.8 billion 1992 budget. Suffolk must receive the go-ahead from lawmakers to sell up to $91 million in four-year deficit bonds and raise its sale tax to 8.5% from 8% to cover the deficit in its $1.3 billion 1992 budget.
Although officials say they expect to ultimately achieve the state approval through a special session of the Legislature, they are also not taking any chances given the volatile political climate in Albany.