Mangano turns to same-old budget tricks

Joye Brown

Newsday columnist Joye Brown Joye Brown

Joye Brown has been a columnist for Newsday since 2006.

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Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano lifted the cap on police severance pay so more highly paid police would retire.

So the county would save money.

So he wouldn't have to raise taxes.

But Nassau's bonding out the cost of the payouts, which in three cases exceed half a million dollars. So money saved now will come due, with interest, years later. And taxes are likely to have to rise to meet the cost.

Cut now, pay later. That's been the mantra for too many municipalities for too many years.

That style of cost-cutting isn't new. Former County Executive Thomas Suozzi made similar moves. So did his predecessor, Thomas Gulotta. Control of the county's top elected post switched from Republican to Democrat to Republican during that time. So, party isn't the problem, or the solution, here.

What is?

Recognizing - finally - that the same-old, same-old isn't going to cut it anymore. And that means that taxing entities - such as Nassau and Suffolk, both of which are slated to release budget proposals over the next few days - are going to have to try something different.

So are the unions. And so is New York State, which seems to work overtime only in handing down mandates and leaving local governments scrambling for ways to fund them.

Last week, word came down from Albany that public employee pensions are taking a beating in the current economy. Not to worry: In New York State those pensions are guaranteed - which means that no pensioner will lose a nickel because state law gives taxpayers no choice but to cough up enough revenue to keep those payments whole.

Thanks, Albany.

But let's get back to Nassau, where Mangano has been unusually mum on the budget plan his office is due to release Wednesday.

Contrast that with Suffolk, where County Executive Steve Levy's been pounding the bricks (and beating up lawmakers) for weeks, laying groundwork for his proposal. He's said he's going to scare up enough funding to hire 150 police officers - finally! - by eliminating funding for the county-run nursing home from his budget proposal.

Levy's budget was to be released Monday. Whenever it comes, residents already will have some idea of his goals and plans. And how they vary with what legislative leaders want.

In Nassau, Mangano's been so silent residents can almost hear crickets chirping. That's a bad thing for a county whose finances are teetering. Last week, according to a Newsday report, the county's unions told Mangano to take a hike on more concessions.

And there's even been speculation that things could get dire enough for the Democrat-dominated Nassau Interim Finance Authority to exercise its muscle and take command over county finances. That would be the political kiss of death for Mangano, a Republican, who, a spokesman said, was not available for comment Monday.

So far, Nassau is planning on raising parks fees and bonding even more property tax refunds, along with police severance pay. Even that won't be enough to set Nassau's fiscal future right.

Things will change only with a declaration of war on the status quo.

Mangano shouldn't need NIFA to sound the alarm.