Nassau County Legislator Richard Nicolello voted against the County Executive's 2009 Budget, which included a 3.9 percent tax increase. In addition to raising taxes 3.9 percent, the 2009 Budget adopted by the Democratic Majority on the Legislature is now more than $3 billion.
Prior to the vote on the budget, Nicolello and the Republican delegation of the Nassau County Legislature proposed amendments which would have eliminated the proposed 3.9 percent property tax increase, cut spending and provided additional detectives to the Nassau County Police Department to combat a growing crime problem connected with the increasing use of heroin and other drugs. The Democratic Majority defeated these amendments.
Nicolello challenged the county executive to administer a 5 percent cut in the county's salary expenditures. "We have all been forced to tighten our belts and stretch our dollars further; Suozzi must now do the same," said Nicolello. "With a $3 billion budget, there is no question but that there are areas where spending can be cut. In particular, the county should first cut the hundreds of patronage positions created by the Suozzi administration."
Republican legislators have been warning County Executive Suozzi for years that county spending was excessive. The current downturn in the economy has only exacerbated the county's budget crisis. "Now is the time to take action to cut current spending. Now is not the time to raise taxes. Raising taxes in this economy will only increase the hardship and financial burdens confronting our residents," said Nicolello. A 5 percent cut in countywide department spending will add up to $22 million in savings.
On Oct. 15, the Nassau County Comptroller announced that the county executive's budget contained $82 million in "at risk" revenue items. "This means that, despite the appearance of a balanced budget, we have an enormous amount of cutting to do next year as well," warned Nicolello.
The amendments proposed by the Republicans would have resulted in a total savings of over $38 million and would have eliminated Suozzi's 3.9 percent property tax increase. The added savings in the Republican's plan would have been put in a contingency account to help reduce next year's budget burden.