Nassau residents face a 13 percent property tax hike or deep cuts in services unless the county legislature approves millions of dollars for tax refunds, County Executive Edward Mangano warned in his State of the County address Wednesday night.
Mangano, a Republican, and the nine legislative Democrats are battling over a plan to borrow $102 million to fund a decade's worth of property tax payments. Bonding requires 13 votes, including three Democrats. All 10 Republicans support the plan, which has been approved by the Nassau Interim Finance Authority.
Mangano in a prepared text said that if his plan does not pass, there are two options: "a massive property tax hike or deep, deep cuts that impact all levels of service." The hourlong speech at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in East Garden City included a Power Point presentation detailing his initiatives.
Democrats say they will not consider new borrowing without additional details about the property tax cases and assurances the administration will spend $14 million remaining from past borrowing for refunds. Democrats also want Republicans to agree to nonpartisan redrawing of county legislative lines this year.
Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt (R-Massapequa) urged Democrats to authorize the borrowing but said, "There is no choice. There will be no property tax increase."
Mangano, elected in 2009, argued that Nassau has turned the corner after inheriting "a decade's worth of problems" from former County Executive Thomas Suozzi, a Democrat. "The good news is we can see the light at the end of the tunnel," Mangano said.
Democrats argue that Mangano is burying the county deeper in debt through heavy borrowing. "The policies and the mismanagement by the Mangano administration have only hampered our ability to recover and rise again from the depths of this recession," Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said in the Democrats' prepared response to Mangano's address.
As Mangano listed his accomplishments, Democrats sat stone-faced and declined to clap while Republicans enthusiastically cheered on the county executive.
Mangano argued that his policy changes -- including the privatization of Nassau's bus service, downsizing of four police precincts and cutting the county workforce -- have saved $200 million.
The speech did not directly mention Mangano's biggest political loss: the Aug. 1 defeat of a public referendum to build a new Nassau Coliseum. But he said, "I have put forth many proposals that have stimulated debate; most successful; one or two not. But let me tell you, they were all intended to turn this county around."
Mangano unveiled a handful of new policy initiatives Wednesday night. Nassau will establish a program to provide homes for active duty military and their families. The county Industrial Development Agency will purchase and rehabilitate foreclosed properties and then rent them to active duty military personnel. After three years, they will be given the opportunity to purchase the homes.
Mangano also disclosed that Nassau Sports and Events LLC has won a bid to build a 105,000-square-foot exposition center at the Mitchel Field Athletic Complex in Uniondale. The plan calls for multipurpose fields, basketball and volleyball courts, a rock-climbing wall, a laser tag area and a fitness center.