The 2013 Nassau County executive race has centered on a single issue: property taxes.
Republican incumbent Edward Mangano has hammered two ideas relentlessly. Mangano has not raised Nassau County's property taxes. Democratic challenger Thomas Suozzi, when he held the office from 2002-2009, did. The real issue is how much came out of your pocket.
No new taxes sounds great to voters stung by bills that are already very high, but the claim begs some questions, like how Mangano has managed to avoid raising them in the past four years.
He has raised fees by more than $100 million. He has failed to pay more than $300 million in property tax refunds. He has been bailed out of paying $230 million in union wages, thanks to a pay freeze imposed by the Nassau Interim Finance Authority. That occurred when NIFA instituted a control period on the county -- after Mangano's budget went out of balance. Mangano also has frozen a broken property assessment system and settled grievances in a way that saved the county $60 million, but hiked school tax bills for practically anyone who didn't grieve assessments. And he borrowed to cover operating expenses.
Keeping property taxes steady would be a great feat if the bills were paid and the books balanced, but they weren't.
The contract Mangano and the Police Benevolent Association drew up to end the control period and pay freeze is more fuzzy math. A NIFA staff analysis says it would cost the county between $170 million and $240 million, but with the costs kicked down the road. And Nassau's been down this road before.
So county property taxes have not increased, but the factors that drive property tax increases have festered worse than ever. Sooner or later, somebody's going to have to pay Nassau County's bills. That is best done with effective management, not higher taxes.
That's governance, which Mangano has forsaken in pursuit of politics.