In his first State of the County address since becoming its top-elected official, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano delivered a somber, yet hopeful speech Monday at the Morrelly Homeland Security Center in Bethpage that both highlighted its current financial challenges and outlined his administration’s plans to meet them.
“The state of our county is deeply troubled,” he told the several hundred supporters and county officials in attendance.
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Among the many “problems our county is facing,” Mangano said, was a $48.5 million 2010 deficit, collective bargaining contracts requiring taxpayers to foot $43 million in raises and back pay “with no plan to pay for those amounts” and “billions of losses and errors” associated with Nassau’s broken real property tax assessment system, which he deemed Nassau’s “most serious problem.”
“The scope of those losses boggles the mind,” he said of the fiscal hemorrhaging resulting from the latter—costing taxpayers $250 million annually.
Mangano attributed much of Nassau’s current financial woes to the actions and inactions of the prior administration of Democrat Tom Suozzi.
To bring the county back to stability, the Republican county executive outlined a fix he described as “methodical and painful but absolutely necessary.”
Mangano’s plan, among other initiatives, calls for an Emergency Property Tax Stabilization Program, which he will soon introduce and requires approval by the county and state Legislatures, to “move our tax system from an annual to a cyclical system. His administration is working to develop a multi-year plan based on “taxpayers’ limited resources to fund government,” he said. It is working with state and federal officials to create green energy jobs. It is exploring shared purchasing and facilities with Suffolk County. In addition, he said, it’s initiating a program to review every activity the county government performs, to streamline services and make it more efficient.
Other solutions include: job creation via the establishment of an Office of Local Opportunity, which will help taxpayers and small businesses navigate the system; the merging and consolidation of county departments; grants and aid programs; the continuation of state programs such as Empire Zones; “sensible regulatory reforms” to the state environmental quality review act to provide greater certainty to developers when they propose projects; and the creation of a business advisory council to address investment concerns.
Mangano announced pilot Summer Recreation Programs in several county parks and welcomed those shut out of state parks due to New York’s fiscal crisis to Nassau County parks.
Referring to a need for “bold, creative solutions to our transportation issues,” he said a proposal to construct a privately funded Cross-Sound Tunnel connecting Long Island and Connecticut beneath the Long Island Sound was “worthy of serious consideration.”
Mangano also requested during his speech that New York State Gov. David Paterson and the state Legislature repeal for new hires the MTA payroll tax imposed last year.
“As I said, the state of the county is deeply troubled,” he told the crowd. “But we have already begun to fix Nassau County. This administration’s approach is real-time reform because residents and businesses struggling to live and work here just don’t have any more time to waste.”