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County Executive’s Column: September 18, 2009

Proposed County Budget Freezes County Property Taxes

I am proud to announce that my proposed 2010 county budget freezes county property taxes. There will be no increase in county taxes next year and the county portion of your total property tax bill will represent only 16.9 percent of the overall property tax bill. That’s down from 22.7 percent the day I took office in January 2002.

I know property taxes are too high; especially school taxes, which account for approximately 65 percent of your total bill. In these tough times, we can’t afford to pay more taxes, so I’ve held the line on county taxes in the newest county budget. And that is also why I have been fighting Albany from spending our money and pushing the costs down to schools, counties and local governments.

The new budget, released this week, keeps spending increases at a record low of 0.5 percent and improves the budget’s important structural balance.

It’s remarkable that we have been able to keep the spending increase at only 0.5 percent, (that’s one-half of 1 percent), in spite of the fact that Albany has continued to mandate increases in county spending of millions of dollars every year.

That 0.5 percent spending increase is far below the Consumer Price Index. This minimal increase in spending has been accomplished despite the increase of $38 million in contractual raises for union employees, $19 million in increased state and federally mandated social services, $7 million in increases of state mandated Workers’ Compensation costs, $7 million in increased health insurance costs, and $5 million in increased state-mandated Special Education and Early Intervention costs. These costs, if unabated, would have represented a 9.3 percent county property tax increase.

We have accomplished all this by cutting the county workforce to the smallest level in 30 years and we will cut it even more. In this year’s budget, we show a reduction of more than 700 positions. The county’s “headcount,” the number of people working, is now 1,000 people lower than when I first took office. As a result, we have reorganized, restructured and re-engineered county government. We continue to make Nassau County government more efficient to do the work necessary to serve the public with less staff. We have no choice.

It was exactly a year ago this week, when the bottom fell out of the national economy. The stock market dropped over 30 percent, consumer confidence fell to the lowest level in history, banks failed and the loss of sales tax revenues blew a $130 million hole in our budget.

This past year has been the most difficult. But, with the boost of some federal stimulus money, negotiated labor concessions from all our county unions and some additional revenues from state legislative items, we have been able to once again, balance our budget.

We have consolidated a dozen government departments but still remain able to respond to the real needs of people and to those people most in need.

We have civilianized many positions in our Police Department but still are able to keep Nassau County’s crime rates at the lowest rate of any municipality of our size in the whole country.

We have worked through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and still managed to keep our financial bond ratings at the highest level in decades, earning 13 bond upgrades since I took office. While municipalities around the nation were being downgraded and placed on “negative watch,” Nassau County’s ratings were affirmed as “stable.”

While we have managed to turn the county around from being “the worst-run county” in the nation, and we have managed to keep the county portion of the property tax bill under control, there is still a major problem with taxes on Long Island. I ask for your help in our continuing fight to combat waste, fraud and abuse, so we can lower Nassau County’s property taxes.