Villages and towns across Nassau County still have not received roughly $8 million in Aid and Incentives to Municipalities funds that they were due to be paid by the state in September. The Village of Freeport alone is owed more than $900,000, and without the money, the village might be forced to raise taxes to make up for the shortfall, Mayor Robert Kennedy said.
According to the New York Conference of Mayors, it’s unclear when the funding might be distributed to local municipalities. In an Oct. 17 memorandum, the organization advised Nassau County mayors to formulate their budgets without it.
Freeport’s AIM funds have traditionally gone to street repair and cleaning, and fire and police department salaries.
AIM funding comes from state sales tax revenue, which is collected by the state comptroller’s office and sent to villages and towns.
State law requires that a fiscal control board receive all AIM funding in a given county, leaving no mechanism by which the money can be distributed to villages and towns.
The state has agreed to negotiate terms of how to distribute AIM funding to the two counties in New York — Nassau and Erie — that are being overseen by a fiscal control board, said Tania Lopez, the state comptroller’s deputy spokeswoman.
The State Legislature created the Nassau Interim Finance Authority in 2000 to oversee the county’s finances after a series of large budget deficits.
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran met Oct. 31 with state officials, who agreed to work with NIFA to reach an agreement on AIM funding. It’s now up to the State Office of the Budget to hammer out the language of that agreement.
“Municipalities that rely on this revenue should not be hurt by this complication,” Lopez said. “We urge the state Division of the Budget to work with the local governments involved so our office can make the necessary payments by mid-December.”
Curran has scheduled an emergency meeting of the county Legislature on Nov. 13 to address the issue. The Legislature must now approve the agreement allowing NIFA to work with the state comptroller’s office.
Kennedy said he is not counting on the AIM funding. “Unless they guarantee it to me,” he said, “I can’t include it in the village budget. I want to see this in writing.
“I would hope that the [county] Legislature approves this on time,” Kennedy said. “This means I’m still waiting for the money.”
Kennedy also said he is having budget meetings next week to develop a contingency plan, “just in case” the AIM funds do not come through.
“I have to make up the million dollars if it’s not approved,” he said. “Until it’s a done deal, anyone can say what they want.”
Meanwhile, the Town of Hempstead faces a $3.8 million budget hole because of the lack of AIM funding. It passed its 2020 budget on Nov. 4. Officials agreed to create a contingency plan if the AIM funding were not to come through.
“We have received assurances from the county executive and the presiding officer in the [county] Legislature that the $3.8 million will be there,” Town Councilman Bruce Blakeman, who represents the 3rd District, said. “We also consulted with our financial people, and we feel that in the unlikely event it’s not there, that we would be able to develop a contingency plan to make up for that.”
Assemblyman Ed Ra, a Republican from Franklin Square, said, “State officials must work together to execute AIM restoration effectively.”
He added that the “mechanism for delivering critical funding to Nassau County failed.
“We need to return to Albany and fix this immediately,” Ra said. He is urging state lawmakers to call members back for a special session as soon as possible to resolve all of this.
He would like to devise a different way to distribute AIM funds. “We need to work together to protect taxpayers,” he said. “We need to make sure our towns and villages actually receive the aid they’ve been promised.”
Alexandra Whitbeck contributed to this story.