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Nassau Leaders React to NIFA Takeover

Mangano confirms lawsuit will be filed against oversight board.

If you’ve ever seen County Executive Ed Mangano seethe, Wednesday was a prime example.

Following the unanimous 6-0 vote from the (NIFA) to , Mangano called the move “premature, unfounded and unnecessary.”

Surrounded by fellow Republicans Legislative Majority Leader Peter Schmitt and County Comptroller George Maragos, Mangano said he was “concerned with (NIFA’s) motivation,” over what it says is a $176 million budget deficit, especially since the state watchdog did .

NIFA did however stop the county’s ability to borrow funds to pay for its day-to-day operations until tax revenues begin to flow in.

“This is a sad day for Nassau County,” Minority Leader Diane Yatauro, D-Glen Cove, said in a statement urging the administration and legislature to cooperate with the oversight board. “We are entering uncharted waters. NIFA control will alter how we conduct our business. It will affect the lives of our workforce and our residents.”

As part of the takeover, NIFA gains the authority to oversee and approve all county contracts and must sign off on .

Mangano called the takeover a bid to discredit his administration and force his hand to raise property taxes to make up for lost revenue.

“Nuts to them, that’s not happening,” Schmitt said of potential tax hikes.

The county executive meanwhile vowed to do “all that is necessary” to keep Nassau residents “from unnecessary real property tax increases” and confirmed that the county would  against NIFA in an attempt to stop the takeover.

“It appears that their only objection is the elimination of real property tax increases that we have taken out of this budget,” he said.

On his first day in office Mangano an unpopular home energy tax and plans to increase property taxes by 16.5 percent.

“What is their motivation?” Mangano asked of the NIFA Board of Directors. “To force this administration to raise real property taxes? We are concerned that they are not participating to cutting expenses.”

NIFA would only be able to freeze wages after declaring a “fiscal crisis,” a move only expected to garner $10 million in savings.

In enacting the takeover, NIFA Chairman Ronald Stack said that a “likelihood and imminence” existed for the county to run into debt in the 2011 fiscal budget, namely $364 million in projected borrowing by the county to pay for property tax settlements over the next two years.

Mangano has maintained that the  and that the county .

“There is absolutely no reason that I can determine for their actions today,” he said, “they are premature at best.”

The county had  detailing what it says are various contingencies including  and reduced staff levels.

“There is no crystal ball in the world,” Mangano said. “A budget is a plan, we put forth a plan. We put forth other contingencies. How far can you go down the road? They’re not a body that wish to be satisfied. They’re not a body that wish to take into consideration the facts.”

The county also announced on Tuesday that it had -the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA)-to cut costs on all future employee hires. The new contract is said to save $70 million through 2017, including $61 million by slashing salaries 11.4 percent from their current levels during employees’ first seven years on the job.

The new details would only save $2 million in 2011, and the contract is also extended for a further two years.

“If they thought they could have done a better job, why didn’t they do it when (the contracts) were being entered into?” Mangano said, referring to the board.

In a statement to Patch on Thursday, Legislator Howard Kopel, R-Lawrence, said that "it seems pretty clear that the county government still gets to run the county. I don’t think that will change. It will be interesting to see how it plays out."

Kopel also acknowledged the political undertones, saying of NIFA members that they "are mostly Democrats appointed to a board, and they didn’t say they would freeze the wages. The one thing that could have helped, they didn’t do. It would have hurt their labor friends."

When he served as a county legislator, Mangano voted in favor of the creation of NIFA, and defended that position as it allowed Nassau to receive $100 million in bailout funds from the state.

“Anytime I (can get) money back from New York State we’ll be willing to support those actions,” Mangano said, theorizing that another rescue might be in order. “Maybe NIFA will get it from New York State and provide Nassau County with $176 million in revenue.”

Despite the county executive’s statement that his administration will comply with the law to give NIFA a revised budget, it will also move forward with legal proceedings against the entity, a move Schmitt said he is “delighted” to see happen.

“There’s no basis in fact for NIFA to act... and they have an agenda,” he said. “This is nothing more than a coup. They are an ethically challenged group.”

Denis G. Kelly January 27, 2011 at 07:13 PM
County Executive Mangano can survive and thrive if he uses this predicament to his advantage by cutting spending. That may seem difficult, given the weight and constraints of current labor contracts, but it can be done. He has been left no choice -- cut or tax. His administration will have to become creative and possibly heartless. He will also have to repeatedly tell the people of Nassau what he is doing and why he is doing it. Those of us in Nassau County who want to have all of the services and lower taxes will have to come to grip with either one or the other. The days of the old Republican patronage machine are dead. Nassau County cannot wait any longer for the "one-shot" that is going to reverse momentum of the financial slope we are sliding down. I think all of the "tricks" have been played out, to the the point that even a strong local economy would not bail us out. If you were bold enough to run on platform of a tax revolt, then it is time to marshal your forces and truly revolt!
John Carway January 31, 2011 at 03:26 PM
I really don't understand NIFA's real motivation in taking over. Are they looking to get back into the limelight after a few years of relative inactivity on their part? Or is their motivation political? I don't see what they are bringing to the table. Certainly not money this time. The state is broke too. We elected Ed Mangano because the voters thought Tom Suozzi had gone too far with his spending and failure to fix the tax assessment mess. He's barely had a year to do it. No one elected the NIFA Board. This seems to be the case of one of the world's biggest Lies, "We're from the government and we're here to help you". Next we can expect to be told they will still respect us in the morning. NIFA imposing itself on Nassau County taxpayers is a reversion back to 1776, where a group of dissidents expressed the notion that "Taxation without REPRESENTATION is tyranny"
Captain Kirk January 31, 2011 at 08:32 PM
Maybe we're just not doing a good enough job ourselves? Do you think with the high salaries, great pensions, benefits for life and on and on that we here in the county have, do you think we've been doing a great job of cutting costs and making this place a less expensive place to live?

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