Thursday, 11 July 2013 00:00Earlier this month Comptroller George Maragos misled the public during his announcement of the county’s 2012 year-end financial results. Publicly releasing the County’s year-end fiscal results is one of the primary responsibilities of the Comptroller and typically occurs in February or early March. Every year Maragos has been in office he has delayed the release – this year pushing it to June – in effect creating his own timeline. This raises serious doubts about the County’s financial condition and represents an abdication of responsibility by the Comptroller. It is my firm belief that Maragos’ announcement of the year-end financial results is a work of fiction.
It is the Comptroller’s job to issue honest, timely, and accurate financial reports rooted in reality, not to play the role of fiscal Houdini by fudging the numbers to hide a deficit. The rating agencies aren’t buying these misleading statements, and just this month Fitch downgraded Nassau County’s bond status given the poor state of the county’s fiscal health.
What Maragos conveniently excluded in his year-end results for fiscal year 2012 is the hundreds of millions of dollars owed by the county to taxpayers who successfully challenged their property tax assessment. The report also irresponsibly assumes that Nassau County will receive the maximum reimbursement of the county’s expenses associated with the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.
The Securities and Exchange Commission recently charged the city of Harrisburg, PA with securities fraud for “making misleading public statements when its financial condition was deteriorating and financial information available to municipal bond investors was either incomplete or outdated.” The current administration can no longer mislead voters by borrowing billions for short-term gain, pushing bills onto future generations, ignoring potential liabilities that the county is legally-required to pay, and then pretending to have a surplus. Nassau residents and bond holders need to know the true state of this County’s finances, and we need to know it now—before we become another Harrisburg.
Under the Suozzi administration, the County experienced eight verified surpluses and eight balanced budgets, thirteen bond upgrades (more than any other municipality in America), and county finances that NIFA and the rating agencies described as “stable”. Since 2010, Nassau has experienced three bond downgrades, the largest deficit in recent memory and a negative outlook from the rating agencies. These issues create a hole in the financial results large enough to drive a truck through. If this were part of an accounting exam, Maragos would receive an “F.” Nassau voters deserve honesty from their elected officials and it’s time Maragos tells the public the truth about the state of our County’s budget.
Howard Weitzman served as Nassau County Comptroller from 2001-2009 and is currently running for that position.