The good news is there will be no property tax increase for Nassau County residents this year. The bad news is that the County may have to continue borrowing in order to close a huge budget gap as part of fiscal 2011.
Delivering his budget to the County Legislature this afternoon, County Executive Ed Mangano's budget promised a zero-percent increase in taxes, paid for by the elimination of 400 positions, consolidating administrative departments and staff, and one that "right-sizes" the County police administration.
"Tough times require tough decisions and swift action," Mangano, R-Bethpage, said in a statement. "My budget accomplishes both while protecting taxpayers."
Mangano has introduced the "Taxpayer Relief Act of 2010," a measure that asks for cuts from every department across Nassau. "We must realistically live within our means and cannot spend what taxpayers do not have," he said.
The County Executive had met earlier in the week with union representatives from the County police and civil service organizations about further cost-cutting measures. The police currently have a contract that runs through 2011 and includes concessions already agreed to under the Suozzi administration.
"Nassau County has dedicated employees that are working even harder to deliver services," Mangano said. "I ask them to share in the sacrifices needed to fix Nassau's finances and to understand that taxpayers simply cannot afford to pay contracts that were entered into without considering residents ability to pay."
Early Wednesday afternoon as he was leaving the County Legislative building in Mineola, Legislator Wayne Wink, D-Roslyn, said he still had not yet received a copy of Mangano's proposed budget. Wink expressed skepticism that any proposal would be able to close the estimated $343 million budget shortfall without borrowing on the part of the County. "It's going to be tough to do without borrowing," he said. The Legislature must adopt a budget by October 31.
The Nassau Interim Finance Authority (NIFA), a watchdog group created by New York State following the County's bailout in 2000, oversees the County's finances, and has the ability to take control of Nassau's finances should there be a deficit of one-percent or more. Nassau's fiscal 2010 budget totaled $2.6 billion, while the $343 million deficit represents more than 13-percent of the budget.
It was Wink's opinion that NIFA may have to become involved and that the agency would need more "teeth" in order to successfully manage the deficit.