Written by Minority Leader Diane Yatauro Friday, 15 October 2010 00:00
Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano has failed. He failed to manage the balanced budget he was given when he took office. He failed to deliver a responsible budget for 2011. He failed to sufficiently cut county spending and he failed to generate new sources of revenue. Even worse, Ed Mangano has failed to demonstrate bold, effective leadership in confronting our pressing financial problems.
The Mangano budget, which is now before the County Legislature for adoption, is tragically flawed in many ways. It relies on speculative revenue. He has requested state and county legislative authorization to gain millions of dollars in funding. Experience has taught us that these approvals may take years or may become bogged down in litigation and may never be realized.
For me, the most troubling aspect of his fiscal plan is that he relies heavily on excessive borrowing. Earlier this year, the county executive asked for and received approval to borrow $86 million to cover the cost of his early retirement incentive and various capital projects. Now he seeks an additional $364 million in borrowing to pay off the county’s tax refund backlog. If successful in his request, Nassau County will be approximately $500 million in debt. This staggering sum will be paid by today’s taxpayers and by succeeding generations.
Mr. Mangano proposes eliminating the County guarantee. He is simply attempting to shift the responsibility for these refund payments onto local taxpayers. If he gets his way, Mr. Mangano will be directly responsible for huge tax increases which most school districts throughout the County will be forced to impose. A tremendous risk for our County.
The ongoing battle over Long Island Bus has become a political football tossed about by state and county officials. Removing the county’s share of the bus service’s subsidy places that vital transportation in jeopardy. No one in any official capacity has terminated the bus service and no one has declared how it will be funded. Another risk for Nassau County.
The Mangano budget also contains various fee increases that amount to a $47 million hidden tax. That $47 million is tantamount to a 5.9 percent property tax increase. The County Legislature’s Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt has publicly voiced his staunch opposition to any increase in taxes and fees. Therefore, the fee increases appear to be doomed.
This budget is all about risk. Dangerous risks which concern our ability to pay our bills, maintain basic essential services, and provide confidence to the bond-rating agencies.
The Mangano Budget is a blueprint for disaster. I am not alone in my fear that the administration is drowning in borrowed money. The Nassau County Interim Finance Authority (NIFA), the state-appointed oversight agency, issued a preliminary report which sharply criticizes the administration for its “unacceptable borrowing.” The NIFA chairman has deemed the budget “unbalanced.”
I have become aware that County Comptroller Maragos has expressed concern over the high level of borrowing that is in this budget.
I am extremely concerned that this budget with its excessive borrowing, its unrealistic revenue expectations and its “pie-in-the-sky” wishful thinking leads us closer to a state financial takeover or even worse.... bankruptcy.
Now is not the time to resort to gimmicks, one-shot quick fixes, or shell games. We need creative thinking, strong leadership and decisive action that will save Nassau County.
I implore the county executive to find ways to cut spending, produce more reliable revenue sources and reduce the excessive borrowing so that we can continue to provide essential services without passing on today’s costs to future generations