Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano has reached tentative retirement-incentive deals with all of the county's unions as he tries to persuade highly paid workers, including cops and correction officers, to leave the public payroll.

The deals, which Mangano hoped to sign off on as early as today, are intended to help reduce employee costs as the new Republican county executive faces a 2011 budget gap projected between $200 million and $400 million.

Mangano projects his incentive plan will lead to the retirement of 75 police, 160 Civil Service Employee Association members and 66 correction officers, for an annual average savings of $16 million over the next several years. The deal is only for workers who are eligible for retirement.

The incentives would pay all retiring union workers $1,500 a year in severance for every year worked, compared to $1,000 a year for only CSEA members in a retirement incentive plan negotiated by County Executive Thomas Suozzi last year.

Mangano's proposed agreements also would temporarily lift a police severance cap instituted under Suozzi that limited termination pay to twice an officer's base salary.

Without the cap, some officers in the past received more than a half-million dollars each in termination pay.

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"He makes Suozzi look like the king of fiscal restraint," grumbled Legis. David Denenberg (D-Merrick), who questioned whether the move would result in "dangerously low" staffing levels on the police force and at county sewage treatment plants.

But Mangano said last year's incentive "left a significant amount of high-paid employees on the county payroll. You have to logically step up the game so the high-salaried employees opt into the program and provide our youngsters with entry-level positions at entry-level salaries."

He said he expected to fill 75 percent of the vacated positions, including more sewage plant workers and police. He said savings will result from paying lower salaries to the new hires while creating job opportunities. "We're putting more jobs back on the street," he added.

Suozzi developed his incentive plan when sales tax revenue dropped drastically during the national economic downturn. His plan prompted about 500 workers to retire. The retirements and other union concessions saved Nassau $43 million last year, according to the county's budget review office.

Mangano will include the savings he expects from his new agreements in a financial plan he will submit by May 3 to the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, a state fiscal monitoring board.

Like Suozzi, Mangano expects to borrow to pay some of the severance costs - though he did not yet have an estimate of the amount.

Any borrowing would require bipartisan approval from the county legislature, which has yet to be briefed on the plan.

Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt (R-Massapequa) said he was aware of the deals but did not know the details. "We'll wait to be advised," he said.

Minority Leader Diane Yatauro (D-Glen Cove) said she had received "no communication" from Mangano. "We need to know the specifics of his proposal before we consider how to vote," she said.

County lawmakers last year approved borrowing $86 million to pay severance costs under Suozzi's plan; $77.7 million was spent.

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CSEA president Jerry Laricchiuta said the new deal, which he called "smart government," would be canceled for his union if the state decides to institute an early retirement program.

Sheriff Officers Association president Michael Adams said the incentive plan "is a step in the right direction. The county executive is trying every means available to save the county money."

PBA president James Carver declined to comment on "ongoing negotiations."

 

Who would be eligible

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Preliminary numbers of Nassau County employees who would be eligible for the retirement incentive program, by union.

Sheriff Officers Association, 61

Civil Service Empolyees Association, 1,848

Police Benevolent Association, 624

Superior Officers Association, 332

Detectives Association, 233

Source: Nassau County executive's office