Written by Wendy Karpel Kreitzman Friday, 30 October 2009 00:00
Incumbent Howard Weitzman, a Democrat, and George Maragos, a Republican, are running for Nassau County Comptroller. Elections are Tuesday, Nov. 3. Both candidates were asked to submit a short biography and asked to answer three questions (a comment on the county budget, thoughts on
consolidation, and an explanation of the job of the county comptroller.) Their profiles appear alphabetically below:
The Republican Nassau County comptroller candidate George Maragos is a longtime Great Neck resident. He and his family have lived in the community for 21 years. Maragos is currently the CEO and the founder of SDS Financial Technologies, an organization that provides financial information and online trading services to the financial industry. SDS has been in business in New York for 20 years.
Maragos has 35 years of senior management positions and said that during those 35 years of experience he has achieved many “accomplishments with leading organizations in banking, consulting, and information systems.”
Discussing the county budget, Maragos said that “The 2009 real budget deficit (structural deficit) is over $220 million.” He went on to state, “The real deficit can be measured by the amount of one shots and borrowings that the county uses to plug the gap between current year income and current year spending. On Page 8 of the October 2, 2009 NIFA report these 2009 one-shots and borrowings are listed, totaling $222.6 million.”
Additionally, Maragos believes that the county budget “is missing almost every line item … revenues are well below projected and major expense line item exceed budget.” And this, he says, “is a reflection of poor management and uncontrolled spending.”
Reviewing the 2009 county budget as a whole, Maragos said, “The proposed 2010 budget is unrealistic and unattainable with optimistic revenue numbers and low expense projections. The 2010 real deficit is expected to hit a new all-time high of well over $220 million. This continual overspending and mismanagement is unsustainable.”
Turning to his thoughts on the current highly controversial consolidation/ dissolution issue at the forefront of the news, Maragos claims that county comptroller reports on special districts are just “comparative cost analysis.” If elected Nassau County comptroller, he would like to see an analysis of why costs in one district are higher than in another district. He would also like to see a specific plan showing how consolidation can deliver proposed savings. Specifically, Maragos would like to see “new studies undertaken to evaluate specific consolidation opportunities where significant savings can be achieved.”
Discussing the actual job of the Nassau County comptroller, Maragos explained that the county comptroller is “the chief financial officer, the chief auditor and chief budget officer of the county government.” He further explained that the county comptroller “does not participate in policy formation, but provides opinion on the financial impact of policy decisions.” In the end, Maragos stated that “the comptroller is responsible for holding the line on government expenditures, monitoring revenues and managing borrowing to fund government at the lowest cost possible.”
In addition to his current position at SDS Financial Technologies, just prior to this George Maragos was a vice president of Citicorp and he had also served as a vice president at the Chase Manhattan Bank. At Chase, Maragos held various senior systems management positions.
Maragos holds a master’s in Business Administration (1983) from Pace University in New York City, and a bachelor of Electrical Engineering Degree (1973) from McGill University in Montreal.
Maragos and his wife, Angela, have two sons, a daughter-in-law and a granddaughter.
Incumbent Nassau County Comptroller Howard Weitzman, a longtime Great Neck resident, is the Democrat’s choice. Running for a third term, Weitzman explains that he is the “fiscal watchdog” over the county’s budget. He is the first CPA to serve in this position and he said that his audits of county departments have “focused on the big dollars.” He is the first comptroller to audit Nassau’s special taxing districts and is proud that he “identified millions of dollars that could be saved for taxpayers.” Weitzman also launched the NassauRx Card, a drug discount program.
Focusing on the county budget, Weitzman said that his budget report “identified approximately $39 million in net budgetary risk, less than half of what was identified in the proposed 2009 budget, but more risk that can be eliminated strictly through tight management of hiring and spending.” He added, “Whether the risks materialize will depend on whether sales tax rebounds in the fourth quarter of 2009 and continues to rise in 2010, and whether the state Legislature permits Nassau County to impose a cigarette tax.”
Weitzman promised: “To reduce spending, I will to continue to work with the county executive’s team to persuade state officials that they can bring down the rate of health insurance premiums set by New York State Health Insurance Program (NYSHIP). We successfully demonstrated that NYSHIP was overcharging all member government earlier this year, and the reduction in premiums saved the county $11 million and at least $100 million for local schools, villages and towns.”
As for consolidation, Weitzman noted he is the first comptroller to audit special districts and thus “uncovered millions in waste and abuse ...” in some cases. As for cases such as the Great Neck Park District, “…where consolidating will not save significant money or would reduce the quality of service, it does not make sense.” Weitzman emphasized that he “supports saving taxpayers money, not consolidation for the sake of consolidation.”
Asked about his job, Weitzman said that the comptroller “makes sure the tax dollars of our hard-working residents are being spent correctly.” This, he said he did by performing “audits on the areas of county government with the biggest expenditures, where potential savings would be the greatest.” Areas included requiring county-funded social service agencies to prevent fraud by filling out extensive forms on internal controls, plus mandatory reporting of fraud, and establishing the first county volunteer citizens audit advisory committee.
He is proud that his office “helped stabilize the failing Nassau Health Care Corporation,” and that they “performed in-depth analyses of the county budgets and multiyear plans,” and issued many “major” audits with “potential savings to taxpayers of tens of millions of dollars.”
Said Weitzman, “I understand our taxes are too high. While we work on ways to lower them I make sure your taxes are being spent responsibly, efficiently, and that you know on what it is being spent on.”
Weitzman, former Great Neck Estates mayor, and his wife, Susan, have lived in Great Neck over 30 years, raising their three children there. He is a former national healthcare partner of the accounting firm KPMG.