Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano proposed eliminating 1,010 jobs, requiring employees to pay 25 percent toward their health-care coverage and closing museums to plug a $310 million budget deficit for fiscal 2012.
The $2.64 billion spending plan for the year beginning Jan. 1 would be the first budget smaller than the previous year’s for New York’s wealthiest county in a generation, Mangano said in a press briefing today in Mineola, the county seat. Nassau, a Long Island suburb of New York City, currently operates with a $2.7 billion spending plan.
“Nassau County’s finances have been broken for over a decade,” said Mangano, a 49-year-old Republican who took office in January 2010. “Fixing them will require the collective efforts of all elected officials working together governmentally, rather than politically apart.”
The Nassau Interim Finance Authority, a state oversight board, seized control of Nassau’s finances in January after ruling that its budget had a gap of more than 1 percent of projected spending. The state created NIFA in 2000 after the county ran up years of deficits. Mangano’s formal spending plan, to be submitted tomorrow, needs approval from the Republican-led county Legislature and NIFA.
Last week he proposed selling the county’s sewer system for $1.3 billion as part of the 2012 budget. The county of about 1.35 million residents is projecting increases in pension and health-care costs and lower revenue from sales taxes and traffic fines, he said.
The deficit is driven by “unaffordable labor contracts,” a sluggish economy and a “broken assessment system” that provides property-tax rebates to residents, Mangano said.
“No one has helped to spin finances out of control more than Mr. Mangano,” Diane Yatauro, a Glen Cove Democrat who leads her party in the Legislature, said in an e-mailed statement. “He has failed to achieve any new revenue sources such as additional red-light cameras and wants county residents to pay for his mistakes.”
Mangano plans to save $210 million in fiscal 2012 by cutting 700 more jobs, in addition to about 300 already eliminated this year. He declined to detail which departments would be affected. Most county employees currently pay nothing toward their health-care plans.
Quality of Life
The county executive also proposed cutting the number of police precincts to six from eight, eliminating department desk jobs and curbing overtime costs.
“It’s a destruction of public safety,” Jim Carver, president of the Nassau County Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, told reporters. Programs such as task forces that target heroin users and drunk drivers no longer exist, hindering residents’ quality of life, Carver said. Asking workers to pay more for their benefits is unfair because they’ve already given up pay raises in order to retain them, he said.
More police officers patrol the streets today than before Mangano took office, said Brian Nevin, a spokesman for the county executive. There are 1,279 officers on patrol today, up from 1,246 in 2009, he said.
Shutting non-revenue-generating museums and discontinuing reimbursements to workers who advance their education will achieve $31 million in savings, Mangano said. He said he will ask the state Legislature to eliminate unfunded mandates, which would provide at least $50 million in additional savings and revenue.
“These are tough times with solutions that share pain among all who deliver government services,” he said. “If my proposals are contested and savings fought, I will have no choice but to lay off hundreds of additional workers and implement furloughs.”
Nassau’s median property tax of $8,206 is the second-highest among U.S. counties, according to the Tax Foundation in Washington. Its median household income was $92,450 from 2005-2009, according to American Community Survey data from the U.S. Census Bureau.