Mangano late with crisis talk

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano in Mineola. (May

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano in Mineola. (May 11, 2012) (Credit: Howard Schnapp)

County Executive Edward Mangano and all but one of Nassau's Republican majority legislature stood in a line across the front of a room in Mineola last week to give Democrats a deadline.

His anger was palpable, desperate even, as he slammed Democrats for blocking $40 million in borrowing for property tax refunds -- a move Mangano said would precipitate a county budget crisis.

But wait a minute.

Isn't Nassau, which is under a state control board, already in crisis?

Mangano acknowledged Friday that wolves are at the door, waiting for a signal to take a bite into county bank accounts to satisfy property tax refunds Nassau has yet to pay.

The last time that happened was under former County Executive Thomas Gulotta's administration. Then, as now, property owners due refunds, plus interest, from tax assessment appeals went to court to squeeze funds out of the cash-starved county.

Back then, a judge let them attach the refunds to a county account. Now, there's a case pending with other property owners hoping a judge will do the same.

The Democrats' refusals to give Republicans a supermajority to approve borrowing "threaten our bank accounts, threaten our bond rating," Mangano fumed.

But there are other threats, too.

A county staffing analysis released by the legislature's independent office of budget review a few hours after Mangano's news conference indicated that -- absent further cuts or additional revenue -- Nassau County could run out of cash beginning midsummer to fund salaries in multiple departments.

And then there's another money grab: A proposed change in local law that would redirect red-light camera revenue from contract social service agencies to the county's operating fund.

Mangano and Legis. Peter Schmitt (R-Massapequa), the legislature's majority leader, said they didn't want to redirect the money, but would have no choice if Democrats block borrowing.

Legis. Kevan Abrahams (D-Hempstead) repeated Friday that Democrats will not give in -- until Mangano agrees to a "fairer" redistricting process, which, presumably, would keep Democrats from losing seats.

Democrats also oppose the proposed $40-million borrowing because, Abrahams said, there are unused budget monies that could satisfy the county's debt to property tax owners.

"The county executive wants to borrow money to free up other money in the budget to help close a budget gap in 2011 and to help in 2012," said Abrahams. "He's going to have to find a way to do that on his own," he said.

Mangano disagrees: "We don't have any money hiding under mattresses," he said.

The county has plentiful options for balancing the budget by year's end, a Mangano spokesman, Brian Nevin, would add later.

It's likely that Mangano won't get help from where he wants it most, the county's unions. They're readying for battle over proposed legislation to cut $40 million in expenses by unilaterally changing contract terms by imposing furloughs and cutting or eliminating Nassau's contributions to employee benefits, among other measures.

And then there's potentially the biggest obstacle of all:

The Nassau Interim Finance Authority, the state control board, which has demanded that Nassau show $150 million in personnel savings before it will allow significant borrowing.

"The board members of NIFA who said that we wouldn't approve borrowing if the county didn't get to the requisite savings weren't kidding," one member, Christopher Wright, told Newsday.

Nevin said the county would have those savings by year's end. Will that satisfy NIFA because the county probably will have to borrow long before then? The board is slated to meet next week. Stay tuned.