Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano said Wednesday he will cut more than 500 workers from the county payroll to close a $176 million budget gap identified by a state fiscal watchdog.
Mangano, who lost a court fight last week opposing a fiscal control period imposed by the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, said he opted to slash the county’s $2.6 billion budget rather than increase property taxes.
“This is a plan where no one is insulated,” said the first-term Republican who ran on a “tax revolt” platform when he was elected in 2009. “Everybody is sharing in the sacrifice.”
NIFA voted in January to impose a control period after identifying a $176 budget shortfall. The six-member panel appointed by the governor meets Thursday to review Mangano’s revised budget.
His plan calls for the elimination of 213 county workers in virtually every department of government and will not fill more than 300 positions where openings currently exist. He also is asking NIFA to impose a wage freeze on all employees and is proposing a 13-day unpaid furlough for all county employees.
The affluent county east of New York City has about 9,000 employees.
He also plans to realign the county police department, taking more than 100 officers in administrative and community policing positions and putting them back on patrol. He said closing one of the county’s eight police precincts was being studied.
Mangano, who said the layoffs would not go into effect until July 1, left open the possibility that some staff cuts would not be necessary.
“Labor leaders will have time to offer voluntary concessions to lessen the severity of these actions,” the county executive said.
Union leaders who say they have made concessions for several years as the county struggled with its finances, did not initially seem open to further negotiations.
James Carver, president of the Nassau Patrolman’s Benevolent Association, called the proposal “devastating.” The county executive has repeatedly said these are the lowest staffing levels since the 1950s.
“In 1950 we had 670,000 residents in Nassau County,” Carver said. “We have 1.3 million residents right now.
“And now you’re going to reduce police patrols even more? Insane is what it is.”
Mangano insisted that patrols would not be reduced, and pointed to statistics showing Nassau’s crime rate is among the lowest for a municipality of its size.
Carver countered there would still be “quality of life” implications.
“None of this is good for the residents of this county,” Carver said.
Jerry Laricchiuta, president of the Civil Service Employees Association, which represents about 6,500 county workers, said he intends to fight Mangano’s plan to furlough county workers.
“We’re angry, we’re frustrated, we’re sad and we feel a little betrayed,” Laricchiuta said. “We don’t believe he’s correct on that.”
Nassau residents last year paid an average property tax bill of $11,500, nearly the highest in the country. The county portion of that tab is 16.4 percent. The majority goes to finance local schools, although the county has no say over school district spending.
Despite that, in an arrangement created decades ago, the county pays refunds to property owners who claim their school tax assessments were too high. For many years it has forced the county to borrow as much as $100 million annually to pay for those refunds.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.