Written by Joe Scotchie Friday, 24 December 2010 00:00
Declaring that by 2013, the county’s finances will be “back on track,” a confident Edward P. Mangano announced $23 million in new budget cuts in anticipation of the 2011 fiscal year.
The announcement was made at a press conference in Mineola last Thursday. The county executive was joined by Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos and Majority Leader Peter J. Schmitt, as all three stood under a banner worded with an anti-big government quotation from Republican Party icon Ronald Reagan. The county executive touted the achievements of his first year, including the elimination of a home energy tax and achieving a small budget surplus. Most of all, he claimed that the new round of budget reductions would help keep the county budget balanced throughout the 2011 fiscal year even in the face of funding mandates from Albany.
The savings, the county executive said, will come from a hiring freeze ($15 million), reductions in government supplies and contractual expenses ($5 million), department mergers ($2 million), and phone line reductions ($1 million).
Mangano also touched on specific parts of the budget, including the police department. He said the size of the police force was being reduced, while still maintaining the current levels of police activity on the streets. The same process, Mangano added, is taking place with the county’s correction officers. In all, the county, Mangano claimed, is saving $20 million a year in labor costs.
Both Schmitt and Maragos promised support in the county executive’s bid for a balanced budget. Maragos admitted that 2011 would be a “difficult year” as additional budget cuts were essential to keep the county in the black. But Maragos added that optimistic scenarios for this year and next year’s budget might be too conservative in their projections.
Throughout the press conference, the county executive had mandates from Albany on his mind, especially those in possible pension costs and health insurance increases. He said there were contingency plans, in the form of more spending cuts, if balanced budgets failed to materialize. Mangano also hoped that revenue from land sales would add monies to the county’s coffers all as another way to meet unexpected mandate costs. Revenues from red light camera violations would continue to fund certain social programs, but Mangano added that state mandates represent a far greater concern to his administration than whatever the county is receiving from errant drivers.
In other specifics, Mangano said that a partnership with a purchasing consortium would work to reduce office supply use in the county budget. He also demanded that county employees, especially those in managerial positions, work “like those in the private sector.” Such managers, he added, would no longer just put in eight hours in the office every day, but instead would be expected to “burn the midnight oil” if necessary to make county government more efficient. Failing that, such managers “will be replaced,” Mangano said.
In all, Mangano said it would take two years to turn the county’s finances around. “[We want Nassau County] to look like every county in the state,” he said. Mangano also blasted the county’s “crazy” assessment system, while touting that the county was now finding $150 million in savings from it every year.
The press conference, as noted, was an all-Republican affair. Legislator Diane Yaturo, the minority leader in the county legislature, weighed on the budget findings.
“It appears that Mr. Mangano may have finally seen the light,” Ms. Yaturo told Anton Community Newspapers. “The recommendations we in the Democratic Caucus made throughout the budget process finally may have been realized. Apparently the print media and NIFA have persuaded him that his original budget plan did not provide the ingredients for a balanced 2011 budget. The Democratic members of the County Legislature want to know why these additions were not included in the plan he submitted in October. The Administration’s new savings plan is a drop in the bucket compared to what we really need. His message does not spell out if these cuts will impact the county’s ability to provide services to our residents. We face serious fiscal challenges in the coming year. I urge the county executive to re-examine his budget to provide more realistic revenue goals.”