Friday, 30 September 2011 00:00Nassau County is heading closer and closer to its demise. Following a national Republican trend, the administration is targeting government workers and their unions as the main reason for the county’s financial collapse. It implies our county is being destroyed by overgenerous labor agreements, and if those aren’t amended, massive layoffs will occur.
But a lack of transparency on the county’s part clearly exists. The administration complains that Nassau has the second highest taxes in the nation, yet if the county got rid of all 6,000 of its Civil Service Employees Association workers, Nassau would still hold that regrettable status. In fact, in a $10,000 property tax bill, only $300 is for the services provided by CSEA members.
The administration has never taken an ounce of responsibility for poor management. Just look at the $2.2 million wasted on an Aug. 1 referendum that could have taken place on Election Day for little to no additional cost. Or the $20 million contract being floated for new artificial turf playing fields at five parks.
CSEA Local 830 provides invaluable services to county residents every day. This was more apparent than ever during Tropical Storm Irene. From the ambulance medical technicians, to the 911 operators and fleet service mechanics all ordered into work, to the public works crews aiding utility workers for two weeks after the storm to remove trees and restore electricity, CSEA workers and police officers kept this county functioning. We had 911 operators who were forced to leave their children in evacuation shelters because they were mandated to work. That’s just part of the job. Our workers know these services are not optional but absolutely essential to achieve the standard of living we expect and deserve in Nassau.
County Executive Edward Mangano has said countless times that we now have the lowest workforce since the 1950s. Meanwhile, our population has more than tripled. Our parks are largely in shambles, our roadways are lined with weeds and grass, and our buildings are falling apart. Probation officers and case workers in social services carry two or three times the federally accepted level of caseloads. Our 911 and fire communications operators are so understaffed that on a busy night, you could be put on hold when calling for help in an emergency.
These all diminish the value of our homes, and make Nassau a far less desirable place to live.
Inevitably, Mangano will point to the unions and say they didn’t step up with a concession plan, and that he was forced to lay off even more workers. But since 2008, we have given back significant monetary parts of the contract every single year, to the tune of $40 million. Then there was the concession plan Mangano and I signed in January — one that his budget people said would create $70 million to $90 million of permanent savings over seven years — that was never forwarded to the legislature. And last week, CSEA offered another substantial savings plan, but it was rejected.
On top of that, today we find our wages and step increases frozen by NIFA. This has been crippling for our workers; some are making just $25,000 to $30,000 a year. Imagine having to pay 25 percent into health insurance on a salary like that. The average salary for a CSEA member in Nassau County is about $61,000 a year, with the average pension under $20,000 per year.
There’s undoubtedly a gaping hole in the 2012 county budget. But union concessions have already been made, and more have been proposed and rejected. Still, unions have a target on their back. Mangano appears to be pitting county residents against county workers. And in that game, nobody wins.
President, CSEA Nassau Local 830