Tough balance of cuts, revenues for Mangano

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Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano. (March 15, 2012) Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano. (March 15, 2012) Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

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Joye Brown Newsday columnist Joye Brown

Joye Brown has been a columnist for Newsday since 2006. She joined the newspaper in 1983 and has

The cuts and new revenue put forth by County Executive Edward Mangano Monday are coming late in the budget year. And they amount to about half of what County Comptroller George Maragos said would be needed to balance the budget and replenish Nassau's rainy day fund.

But Mangano, in an interview Monday, defended his actions, saying they were necessary now because legislative Democrats have thwarted his plans to use tens of millions of dollars in borrowing to help move toward future balanced budgets.

He said he would not cut deeper to resupply the reserve fund, despite a Maragos recommendation.

"I am not going to make draconian cuts at this juncture," he said. "We are working on other ways to replenish the rainy day fund."

Mangano's latest plan?

Reduce Nassau's workforce by another 200; about half the positions would come through attrition, primarily police, correction officers and civilian employees who have accepted retirement incentives. The separation pay for officers and the voluntary retirement incentive would be funded through borrowing.

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Halt $19 million in capital improvement funded projects and plow that money back into Nassau's operating budget to pay off debt service. This, as Mangano acknowledged, is not a true, recurring cut. It's more like a swap. The county will not complete some projects, but instead will realize savings through reduced bond service costs.

Nassau, for the balance of what's left of the year, also will cease or significantly reduce $12.2 million in purchasing, which may be why Mangano announced last week's cost saving plan on copying machines.

During the last budget crisis, under former County Executive Thomas Gulotta, veteran workers recall, Nassau got down to one working copy machine -- because the county couldn't afford to pay its service contract.

Mangano, although it was not a significant part of Monday's news conference, also is seeking additional revenue: $4.6 million in fee increases, which were passed in legislative committee Monday.

To save money, he also canceled evening hours at two county agencies. The reduction of hours at the county's traffic and parking violations agency aren't likely to have significant impact because tickets can be settled online.

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But some residents -- who already may be impacted by Mangano's cancellation of $3.8 million in mental health, addiction, senior and youth agency contracts -- could take it on the chin again when Nassau cancels evening hours at its social services department.

Mangano said he hoped that the savings, plus new revenues, would cover $150 million in cuts he put into his 2012 budget under an agreement with the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, the control board overseeing county finances.

The $150 million was supposed to come from recurring labor savings, which Mangano initially agreed to make by February. "We are not going to hit that $150 million in this year," Mangano acknowledged Monday, because he and the county's labor unions have not been able to agree on significant concessions.

Nonetheless, Mangano said, Nassau is working on other contingency plans, too. Those are likely to include a proposal to privatize management of the wastewater management system.

And, he said, he is continuing to negotiate with both labor leaders and legislative Democrats, who are refusing to give Mangano, a Republican, enough votes to approve borrowing.

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"I am at the point where I am nauseated at the political maneuvering that has infiltrated every aspect of this county," Mangano said.

Residents, looking at the ongoing dysfunction in Nassau, probably are, too.

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