Nassau County officials kicked off a series of meetings to brainstorm their next move a day after a judge ruled a state takeover of the county’s troubled finances will stand.
County Executive Ed Mangano and Ronald Stack, chairman of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority (NIFA), were scheduled to meet Tuesday afternoon in Mineola while Mangano called for a summit next week with NIFA and the leaders of the five unions that represent county employees. Meanwhile, it remained unclear if the county would appeal the judge’s decision.
“It’s a good sign,” Stack said Monday, the first day he has spoken publicly since the county sued the six-member board in an attempt to block the takeover.
Both sides have a lot to discuss. Mangano released a statement suggesting that the NIFA takeover will mean a property tax increase—a charge Stack denied.
The judge’s ruling “is disturbing news for taxpayers as it allows NIFA to change accounting practices to project a paper deficit equal to a 21.5 percent property tax increase in 2011 alone,” Mangano said.
Stack insists the fiscal watchdog panel is not plotting to force the county into a tax hike.
“NIFA has never ever suggested that property taxes should be increased,” he said. “We have no power to increase property taxes and we never suggested that they should be.”
Sometime next week both sides are expected to sit down with labor leaders as well. Mangano said he plans to ask for concessions.
Jerry Laricchiuta, president of the 10,000-member Nassau County Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) Local 830, the county’s largest union, had reached a tentative agreement with Mangano in January for $2 million in concessions this year, but that proposal was never voted on by the union membership.
James Carver, president of the Nassau County Police Benevolent Association, which represents patrol officers, said the union agreed to a concession agreement three years prior.
“It’s the PBA’s position that we’ve already cooperated with the county during these difficult financial times and that we are part of the solution, we are not part of the problem.”
He noted that NIFA has only declared a control period, which requires the county to submit its budget and contracts to the board for approval, but did not go a step further and enact a fiscal crisis—a move that would allow NIFA to freeze wages.
“Our attorneys are reviewing the court’s decision and if and when NIFA does declare a fiscal emergency, the PBA is prepared to deal with that,” Carver said.
Gary N. Learned, president of the Superior Officers Association, which represents police officers with the rank of sergeant and above, and Thomas Willdigg, president of the Nassau Detectives Association, both said they are taking a wait-and-see approach.
Michael Adams, president of the Nassau County Sheriff’s Officers Association, which represents county jail guards, was in the same boat.
“We’ll wait to see what the summit brings,” he said.
While those talks are lined up, the county attorney is reviewing the judge’s decision but has yet to decide if it will appeal, according to a spokesman for Mangano.
Justice Arthur Diamond ruled the NIFA takeover was constitutional but put off a ruling on whether NIFA acted inconsistently with Mangano versus the prior administration.