The Republican-controlled Nassau Legislature on Monday approved a $2.79 billion budget for next year proposed by County Executive Edward Mangano with only minor technical changes.
The 2014 budget, which holds property taxes level for the fourth consecutive year, was passed on a 10-9 party-line vote, nine days before most legislators and Republican Mangano seek re-election.
The 10 GOP legislators rejected several amendments filed by the Democratic minority, including one to reduce the county executive's $174,000 salary by $65,000. Mangano has attacked predecessor Thomas Suozzi, a Democrat seeking to regain his old job on Nov. 5, for boosting the county executive salary by $65,000 in 2008. Suozzi counters that it was recommended by a bipartisan commission.
Also defeated was a Democratic amendment to increase the county's contribution to the NICE bus system from $2.6 million to $6.6 million.
Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) stressed that Republicans had not increased property taxes while they restored funding to youth agencies. She accused Democrats of proposing "pure fiction" in their amendments.
Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) contended that Democratic proposals would save $26 million. "I think our savings are genuine," he said.
Gonsalves said GOP legislators have promised to try to improve funding for the Nassau Inter-County Express (NICE) system. Mangano in 2011 recommended a change to the private bus system run by Veolia Transportation as a way to save millions of dollars in escalating costs expected if the MTA continued to operate the system.
"Before we can spend, we need to know where the other dollars are coming from to pay for those expenses," Gonsalves said. "We will in the near future talk about ways in which we can help make NICE bus better."In a statement, Mangano said the "budget protects families and seniors while also paving the way for continued economic growth by holding the line on property taxes for a fourth year in a row and by cutting spending . . . "
Democrats complained that next year's budget presumes borrowing of $230 million to pay tax refunds -- despite a recommendation from Nassau Comptroller George Maragos, a Republican seeking re-election, that the county borrow $50 million this year and pay $50 million from operating expenses toward the chronic refund burden.
Deputy County Executive Tim Sullivan said the county's financial control board, the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, agreed in 2011 to allow the county to borrow $305 million through 2014 for refunds. The plan was delayed until Democrats this year agreed to borrow $75 million.
Although the county was supposed to stop borrowing to pay refunds in 2015, Sullivan said he hoped NIFA would permit borrowing for the remaining $230 million over several years because of the delay.
NIFA chairman Jon Kaiman could not be reached for comment.