Nassau County will soon move to fix its troubled property tax assessment system, create a business advisory council to promote investment and rejuvenate county parks, County Executive Edward Mangano said Monday night.
"Our overburdened taxpayers are demanding strict controls on government spending and smaller government. I intend to deliver just that, " Mangano said as he delivered his first State of the County speech.
Mangano, who ran on a platform of reforming the property tax system, said he would "soon introduce an emergency property tax stabilization program . . . to move our tax system from an annual" to a multiyear system.
He provided no details, but said his proposal would require action by both the county and state legislatures.
Mangano, a resident of Bethpage, delivered his speech at the Morrelly Homeland Security Center in Bethpage, and told the audience: "Tonight I am here to tell you the state of our county is deeply troubled."
He cited sagging sales tax revenue, an out-of-balance county budget and restrictive labor agreements as contributing to the problem.
Saying that a more favorable business climate can help the county pull through its financial crisis, he said he is naming businessmen Mark Fasciano and Mike Puntillo to head the Business Advisory Council. He said the council will "meet with me regularly."
Among the many proposals, he said the county's parks will be revitalized with a pilot summer recreation program.
"We will have a robust program of activities for children of all ages," he said.
Much of the 55-minute speech was a backward-looking critique of problems Mangano, a Republican, said he had inherited from his Democratic predecessor, Thomas Suozzi.
"The prior administration negotiated collective bargaining contracts that require the taxpayers to pay $43 million in raises and back pay over the next few years with no plan to pay for those amounts, Mangano said. "That was wrong."
He also spoke about the resurgence of heroin use, particularly among youngsters. "The drug is a threat to our future and our families," he said.
In a rebuttal, Democratic Leader for the Minority Caucus Diane Yatauro chided Mangano for proposed cutting of services to youth on drugs and to struggling seniors.
"How unfortunate it would be to reduce funding from these programs as we fight a growing heroin problem on Long Island," she said.
Mangano also revived the proposal to build a cross-Sound tunnel to Connecticut and suggested that he would curb local government subsidies to create office space because of a glut of office and retail space that the market cannot absorb.
"I vow to stay firm in my commitment to return Nassau County to greatness, and most importantly, to proudly serve its residents," Mangano said as the speech drew to a close.
During last month's address by County Executive Steve Levy, News 12 Long Island posted viewers' comments on screen next to his image, a move that drew sharp criticism from the county executive's staff. Monday night News 12 Long Island did not follow that format. Cablevision owns the television station and Newsday.
With Sid Cassese and Zachary R. Dowdy
Excerpts from Mangano's address
* "Fostering cooperation between all levels of government, the private sector and listening to residents will be a hallmark of my administration. Listening to the concerns of residents is a hallmark of democracy."
* "On a Regional Basis, we are exploring shared purchasing and shared facilities initiatives with our friends in Suffolk County. We are working with County Executive Steve Levy to discus the possibilities of a shared juvenile detention center that would serve both our Counties and save money for all taxpayers. There is much more our Counties can and should do together."
* "Reforming the system will bring stability, predictability and fiscal responsibility to Nassau County's assessment system. There is simply no other choice."
* "We are reviewing all County owned and leased real estate. Today, the County leases expensive space while County owned buildings sit vacant. That's ridiculous and just doesn't make any sense. What also makes no sense to me is the fact that taxpayers were left a crumbling infrastructure."
* " ... Members of our minority communities are feeling the brunt of the present Recession. My administration has breathed new life into minority affairs. In just the last two months, the number of minority community clients served by CASA has doubled."
Highlights of Mangano's proposals
* Mangano is proposing that the New York State Republican and Democratic presidential primaries, be held immediately after the New Hampshire primary in order to give Long Island and the state more clout at the federal level.
* He is proposing that the county take back the parks for the people, adding that "our parks have too often been used to serve private interest, rather than those of the tax payers. He said he would take the parks back for the people.
* He said the county will work with the private sector to help build affordable housing for every veteran in the county, especially "female veterans with children, many of whom are homeless."
* He said he would push for the county to do whatever it can to support the non-for-profit sector, which accounts for about 16 percent of jobs throughout the county.