Hundreds of layoffs, closed museums and a reduced police force are all possibilities under the latest 2012 budget being proposed by Nassau Executive Ed Mangano.
Speaking at a press conference at the county legislative building in Mineola Wednesday, Mangano outlined $65 million in additional cuts for the $2.63 billion 2012 budget he will submit Thursday in order to stave off a projected $310 million deficit, which he says is the result of the “broken” property assessment system and “unaffordable” labor contracts. The county executive has not been willing to raise taxes in order to close the gap, which he said would be the equivalent of a 39 percent increase.
“If my proposals are contested, savings fought, I will have no choice but to lay off hundreds of additional workers and implement furloughs, which will affect services,” Mangano said. “The budget is not a scare tactic, it’s reality.”
The steep cuts in the 2012 budget include a total elimination of 1,010 positions, up from about 300 already laid off this year. Grant Thornton, the outside consulting firm hired by the control board overseeing the county’s finances, had recommended eliminating close to 1,600 jobs, closing departments and outsourcing other functions. Mangano did not say from what departments positions would be cut, only that a report would be made available next month.
NIFA has made it a point to seek contingencies in the county’s budget, which Mangano said are moving the sewer system into a public-private partnership and asking the state legislature to allow for a margin of error when assessing property such as exists in Connecticut and New Jersey.
“These are tough times with tough solutions. They have pain; that pain is shared among all those who deliver services,” he said, noting that county elected officials also cut their budgets to varying extents.
Among the shared pain is a new requirement for all employees to contribute 25 percent toward their health care costs in line with state employees, cutting educational pay for workers, shuttering a number of museums which are losing money – with Garvies Point and Tackapausha being mentioned as possibilities – and consolidating two police precincts, reducing the overall number from eight to six.
The county is also proposing the elimination of police “minimum manning” requirements, which Mangano says forces the county to call in additional officers on overtime when regular on-duty officers are available and require those who currently get certain days off to work more on regular-pay hours instead of overtime.
The PBA currently has about 1,700 members in its union and the police force has shrunk by about 350 officers in the last three years.
“You are seeing a destruction of the police department at the hands of this administration,” Nassau County Police Benevolent Association President James Carver said. “These cuts are draconian... he’s only scaring the public with these actions.”
The county executive denied the charge, saying that residents would only see a difference in the physical location of the precincts but “will still see the same amount of police in their neighborhood.”