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Letter: Open Letter To County Executive Mangano - Take Youth, Seniors Out of Equation

I am reaching out to you, County Executive Edward Mangano, to suggest that we come together in a bipartisan manner and remove youth and senior services - along with all critical human service programs on the chopping block - from our debate over borrowing.

It is not justifiable to the people of Nassau that somehow this particular 0.15 percent of the 2012 budget has become mixed up with the fact that you want to borrow the better part of a billion dollars. The budget lines for the human services you are cutting have nothing to do with your borrowing.

It is important for all people to fully understand this. You do not need to cut these programs. If you have decided to remove $4 million from your budget while you make a case for your borrowing, it can come from anywhere in the budget. Additionally, during legislative sessions, we’ve identified about $13 million in a contingency fund and about $91 million in a non-allocated reserve fund that you could also use to keep these crucial programs alive.

For several weeks running, we have learned how important the programs are that you want to cut. We’ve witnessed emotional rallies outside the legislature and pained testimony at legislative sessions. We’ve heard from taxpayers who rely on these programs, from families who will be devastated by the cuts, and from program staff who know too well the damage these cuts will do to every single community in Nassau.

For a government to obliterate its human services in order to save about $4 million out of a $2.6 billion budget is just too much of a sacrifice. $4 million is a lot of money. In the scheme of things, however, 0.15 percent is a tiny fraction of the total funds you have at your discretion. (Your comptroller recently reported that something close to this amount was being given away to Verizon on unused phone lines.)

Because it is such a minuscule portion of the budget, and because the programs are crucial, I believe we should sit down and match these savings in other areas. I recommend we: 1) leave these programs intact; 2) go through your budget line by line until we match the savings you seek in a way that doesn’t destroy the lives of so many people.

We are talking about constructive, educational child care for families with two working parents who wouldn’t otherwise be able to go to work and support themselves. That helps us all. We are talking about suicide prevention and drug abuse. These can hit any family, without regard for tax bracket. We are talking about the main meal certain senior citizens get each day. These are people who paid their dues to this society and now deserve something from you and from me.

While you willingly eliminate these programs that you could easily fund, you have given away $10 million in legal contracts to outside firms for work that could have been done by the county attorney’s paid staff. Raises are being handed out in the departments of public works and corrections. Your personal office expenses are up about a quarter this year. We all can see that there is clearly money to access when you deem it warranted.

We can certainly find the $4 million needed to take people’s lives and welfare out of the equation. Let’s sit down.

Nassau County Legislator
Delia DeRiggi-Whitton, 18th LD