Democrat Tom Suozzi and incumbent Republican Ed Mangano shared their positions on seven key issues facing Nassau County. Compare their responses below. Click here for a comparison of key Nassau statistics from the end of Suozzi's term in 2009 and current 2013 numbers
County budget & debt
Throughout my term as County Executive, I have focused on rebuilding Nassau County without asking taxpayers to foot the bill for the $378 million deficit we inherited from Tom Suozzi's administration. To accomplish this, I cut over $330 million in wasteful spending and launched nationally recognized public-private partnerships – savings taxpayers millions of dollars and generating hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. By implementing the Nassau County Fiscal Recovery Plan approved by the Legislature and NIFA, my administration will close the multi-year budget deficits we inherited without raising property taxes.
Under Tom Suozzi's watch, Nassau County's debt increased by $402 million to the highest debt in our county's history. This fact was revealed in independent reports issued by the county's auditor - Deloitte. My administration has reduced Suozzi's debt and will continue to do so without raising property taxes.
After inheriting the “worst run county in America” that was in massive debt under Tom Gulotta, I balanced eight budgets and produced eight verified surpluses. I reduced borrowing and cut the debt and for my solid fiscal practices Nassau was awarded thirteen straight bond upgrades by independent outside agencies.
During his term as county executive, Ed Mangano produced Nassau’s first budget deficit in over a decade. His fiscal policies have increased Nassau’s debt to the highest it’s ever been and our bond rating has been downgraded three times. Mangano has slashed essential county services and increased spending 145 percent the rate of inflation. In 2011, because of Mangano’s inability to balance the budget, our county finances were taken over by a state control board, NIFA.
My solutions for balancing Nassau County's budget
1. Controlling, reducing and eliminating overtime costs by monitoring activity and maintaining optimal head counts will save $15 million.
2. Revoking, discounting and terminating all current “politically connected” outside contractors beginning with the county attorney’s office will save $10 million.
3. Reducing, restructuring and renegotiating the county’s chronic debt obligations will save $10 million.
4. Improving the county’s ability to collect countless owed and outstanding fees, taxes and past-due accounts will yield $10 million.
5. Collaborating with other municipalities on centralized systems will save $5 million.
6. Maximizing federal and state program revenues will yield $5 million.
New, creative, smart government initiatives including centralizing county offices, restructuring county agencies, and shared services among county departments will save $45 million, including:
a) Implementation of integrated financial systems across the entire county (ERP)
b) Centralized revenue, accounting and purchasing departments
c) Risk management reforms
d) Fleet reduction
e) Independent audit unit
f) Inventory management
g) Strategic sourcing for purchasing
h) Redesign workspace to create efficiency and reduce real estate costs
Are you willing to consider increasing taxes to keep the budget in balance? No.
I believe high taxes kill jobs. That is why I froze county property taxes every year since taking office, eliminated a 16.5 percent property tax increase planned by Tom Suozzi and even stopped his County Food Tax dead in its tracks. Nassau County was the highest-taxed county in the nation during Tom Suozzi's tenure - that is no longer the case due to my administration's cost-saving policies. In fact, my administration won the New York State Local Government Efficiency Award for implementing cost-cutting measures while not increasing property taxes.
Throughout my term as county executive, I have focused on rebuilding Nassau County without asking taxpayers to foot the bill for the $378 million deficit I inherited from Tom Suozzi's administration. To accomplish this, I cut over $330 million in wasteful spending and launched nationally recognized public-private partnerships – saving taxpayers millions of dollars and generating hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.
Are you willing to consider increasing taxes to keep the budget in balance? No.
In recognition of my efforts to fight unsustainable property taxes in New York, I was appointed Chair of the New York State Commission on Property Tax Relief in 2008. Because of the property tax cap that I fought to put in place, the county cannot raise property taxes over 2 percent, so while the county is in dire fiscal straights, raising taxes is neither appropriate nor possible as a solution. Additionally, I fought to reduce the county portion of taxes from 22.5 percent to 16 percent in my eight years as County Executive.
Ed Mangano has effectively raised school tax rates over 19 percent in the last two years alone through his mismanagement of the assessment system. By freezing assessments in fluctuating markets, giving unwarranted reductions to commercial properties, and benefiting the politically connected tax attorneys who benefit from the broken assessment system, Mangano has hit homeowners with the “Mangano Tax”. In fact, the school tax rate on his own home has gone up 24 percent - $2,800 in the last two years alone.
After most homeowners have had their school taxes increase by the “Mangano Tax”, they cannot withstand more taxes. What we need is a county executive who understands the finances of the county and has a plan to fix them. I did this when I took over from Tom Gullota in 2002 and I will reverse Mangano's mismanagement of our finances again.
I believe, and the law guarantees, the right of all property owners to fight their assessment if they believe it to be unfair.
Tom Suozzi wants residents to pay their taxes up front and then fight for a refund. I believe it's wrong as residents should have the right to fight their assessment prior to paying their taxes. This policy keeps money in our residents first, prevents the need to fight the government for a refund and also saves the government money in interest charges for taking tax dollars it shouldn't have taken in the first place.
Let me be clear. The assessment system doesn't take a dime of your tax dollars. It simply collects taxes for those seeking it, i.e. schools, towns, and villages. For example, if school taxes go up, it's because schools are spending more money, not because the assessment system is taking any of the dollars. Tom Suozzi has lied in an attempt to make residents believe the assessment system is the reason for their school tax hike. This is not the case, and in fact, school taxes skyrocketed a whopping 84 percent on Tom Suozzi's watch.
In closing, I support true reforms to the assessment system and have implemented many since taking office. My administration froze assessments for four years, corrected assessments before demanding tax payments from homeowners and is seeking New York State laws to fix the system permanently.
The best way to reduce the number of successful grievances is to make sure assessment for both residential and commercial properties done right the first time around.
Ed Mangano's mismanaged tax assessment system has caused your school tax rate to go up by 19 percent over the past two years alone – the school tax rate on Mangano’s own home has gone up 24 percent, or $2,800, over the last two years alone. I will address the two largest problems with the broken system: The “Mangano Tax” which has caused dramatic increases in the school tax rate and Mangano’s attempt to shift the County Guaranty to the schools.
My plan will fundamentally change Nassau's broken assessment system. I will eliminate the county's borrowing to pay refunds, fix the commercial assessment department, and change the way the county pays grievances so Nassau homeowners are no longer responsible for handouts given to big business. And I will restore integrity and professionalism to the assessment department so Nassau's taxpayers — not Nassau's politically connected tax law firms — benefit.
I will reevaluate the freeze to take into account the cyclical nature and fluctuations in the real estate market and reduce the influence of politically-connected tax attorneys who profit from the broken system. I will reduce the influence of politically-connected tax attorneys who profit from the broken system by adequately staffing the assessment department (particularly in the commercial department) to get assessments right the first time.
I will eliminate the county's borrowing to pay refunds, fix the commercial assessment department, and change the way we pay grievances so Nassau homeowners no longer foot the bill for big business handouts. I will drop the County Guaranty lawsuit immediately and I will restore integrity to the assessment department so Nassau's taxpayers benefit.
Economic development & jobs
I have focused on rebuilding Nassau County’s economy by creating jobs that put people back to work. Together with my economic development team, I helped create and retain more than 19,000 private sector jobs in Nassau County. In fact, Nassau County recently won a heated competition with the State of New Jersey for the International Headquarters of Hain Celestial. The County has also attracted new homeland security jobs, high-tech jobs, as well as film and television industry jobs to the former Grumman-Navy property in Nassau.
In 2013, the New York State Department of Labor reported that Nassau County now leads the State of New York in terms of job growth and employment. In fact, Nassau County has the lowest unemployment rate in the region.
My administration has earned praise for creating new housing opportunities for veterans as well as for converting empty commercial office space into 1,000 new rental units for young people and seniors. Together, these initiatives are helping make Nassau County a better place to live, work and raise a family.
Recently, I announced a successful public-private-partnership with Forest City Ratner Companies to transform the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum into a world-class sports-entertainment destination at no cost to taxpayers. When completed, the facility will host the New York Islanders, Brooklyn Nets, New York Yankees coaching clinics, children's shows, heavyweight boxing championship tournaments, minor league hockey and college basketball games as well as an exciting array of star-studded performances and family-fun entertainment. Plaza development will include a performing arts theatre, ice rink, movie theatre, bowling alley and theme restaurants.
Three tangible problems threaten Nassau County's long-term economic sustainability:
1. Sales taxes: In the past 10 years, Suffolk county has collected $1.6 billion more in sales taxes than Nassau.
2. Residential and commercial development has slowed down and we are not creating new jobs in Nassau. Prior to the Great Recession, from 1998 to 2008, Suffolk experienced four times as much commercial development as Nassau.
3. Young people are not moving to the area due to a lack of both rental housing and desirable environments. We have 30 percent fewer people between the ages of 25 and 34 living in Nassau than we did in 1990.
If we desire a sustainable future, we need to address these problems. We need, in particular, to expand our commercial property tax base with new construction in our downtown areas. This new construction, which will create new jobs and draw in new high-skilled, high-tech industry, will accelerate the sales tax growth necessary to fund our great services and assets and will attract young people to new environments.
My administration will implement the following plan to offer comprehensive, targeted assistance to the Hub and to communities selected as the 'New Suburbia Trailblazers':
The County will provide comprehensive, targeted assistance to towns, cities and villages selected as 'New Suburbia Trailblazers'. We will determine recipients of this assistance through a competition between Towns and Villages designed to encourage creative ideas and promote the development of multi-story, multi-use buildings in downtown areas near train stations. We will select one New Suburbia Trailblazer in 2014, two in 2015, three in 2016, and four in 2017. Towns and Villages hoping to secure the county's assistance should strive to encourage green growth and to encourage contextual development so that new buildings fit neatly into the existing infrastructure.
My administration is in discussions with Nassau County's union presidents to return incentive to the workforce while achieving long-term structural savings for taxpayers. My administration already saved residents $250 million in labor costs - which will save taxpayers millions more in recurring savings for generations to come.
I will work with the public unions as partners to right our fiscal ship. Mangano has done nothing but file lawsuit after lawsuit as a way to blame everyone from the unions, to NIFA to our schools for the fact that he has no plan to fix the finances, or any ability to work with others. I will reverse that trend, and will work in partnership with our unions in order to negotiate good faith concessions.
When I took office as county executive, I inherited a history of costly collective bargaining agreements and arbitration awards that placed a tremendous strain on the County’s coffers. One of my first actions was to negotiate a new set of contracts that broke the costly leapfrogging pattern that had been prevalent for at least the prior decade. I also entered into new contracts with the County unions. In each case I achieved the savings targets established in the Multi-Year Plan (MYP) and secured important operational reforms.
Other accomplishments included civilianization efforts in Nassau County Police Departments that resulted in headcount reductions; capping employee salaries and accrued paid leave; and negotiating concessions with County unions during the fiscal crisis in 2009.
Attracting young residents
On the same day I was sworn into office as county executive, I kept my pledge to taxpayers by repealing Tom Suozzi's Home Energy Tax – the equivalent of a 5 percent property tax reduction for homeowners. I am the first county executive to place tax dollars back in our residents' pockets.
Our young people need jobs and I believe high taxes kill jobs. That is why I froze county property taxes every year since taking office, eliminated a 16.5 percent property tax increase planned by Tom Suozzi and even stopped his County Food Tax dead in its tracks. Nassau was the highest-taxed county in the nation during Tom Suozzi's tenure - that is no longer the case due to my administration's cost-saving policies. In fact, my administration won the State Local Government Efficiency Award for implementing cost-cutting measures while not increasing property taxes.
Throughout my term, I have focused on rebuilding Nassau's economy by creating jobs that put people back to work. With my economic development team, I helped create and retain more than 19,000 private sector jobs in Nassau. In fact, Nassau recently won a heated competition with New Jersey for the International Headquarters of Hain Celestial. The County has also attracted new homeland security jobs, high-tech jobs, as well as film and television industry jobs to the former Grumman-Navy property in Nassau.
In 2013, the State Department of Labor reported that Nassau now leads the state in terms of job growth and employment. In fact, Nassau has the lowest unemployment rate in the region. This is clearly important for our young residents.
My administration has also earned praise for converting empty commercial office space into 1,000 new rental units for young people. These initiatives are making Nassau County a better place to live, work and raise a family.
Much has changed since 1947, when Levittown became America’s first standardized, mass-produced suburban community. Today, we are suburban sprawled; we have run out of room to grow outwards. Today, young people aspire to live in cities, reversing the trend of many of their parents, who 'escaped' from places like Manhattan or Brooklyn to move out to Nassau. Today, we pay high property taxes to educate our children in Nassau's first rate public schools. Our children then go away to college, and when they complete their education they move to places like Brooklyn or Manhattan.
Young people are not moving to the area due to a lack of both rental housing and environments that are desirable to them. We have 30 percent fewer people between the ages of 25 and 34 living in Nassau than we did in 1990.
If we desire a sustainable future, we need to expand our commercial property tax base with new construction in our downtown areas. This new construction, which will create new jobs and draw in new high-skilled, high-tech industry, will accelerate the sales tax growth necessary to fund our great services and assets and will attract young people to new environments.
My administration will accomplish this by implementing the following plan to offer comprehensive, targeted assistance to the Hub and to communities selected as 'New Suburbia Trailblazers':
The County will select one Trailblazer in 2014, two in 2015, three in 2016 and four in 2017, and provide these communities with comprehensive, targeted assistance, including Federal, State, and Inter-Governmental Economic Development Assistance, high-technology industry, infrastructure improvements, and one-stop shopping for businesses.
My administration has reduced crime in Nassau County by 10 percent since the days of Tom Suozzi. Nassau County is now the safest large county in the nation thanks to our police force and our intelligence-led policing initiatives that have utilized technology to reduce crime. My policies have taken police officers from behind desks and assigned them to patrol functions in our communities - including a new special unit that addresses crime trends.
Since taking office, my administration has helped take 3,000 guns off Nassau County streets. Recently, I unveiled a technological upgrade to the already successful ShotSpotter Gunshot Location System which will help to further reduce incidences of gun violence in the Roosevelt and Uniondale communities. With crime down more than 10 percent since I took office, these reactive cameras are being added to targeted locations throughout the ShotSpotter zone to serve as a powerful law enforcement tool that will help further combat gun violence and provide assistance in the prosecution of offenders.
ShotSpotter cameras are reactive in nature where they will only be monitored once the system determines gunfire has been discharged. Once a shot is fired the cameras will pan in the direction within 4-7 seconds of where the shot was fired. The forensic evidence and situational intelligence this gives officers is invaluable to solving and combatting violent gun crime. The cameras have been strategically placed in public areas throughout the ShotSpotter zone based on law enforcement intelligence. They have been paid for utilizing asset forfeiture and grant funds.
This is the second time I expanded the successful ShotSpotter program. The first expansion took place in May 2010 when the system was added to patrol vehicles. The ShotSpotter system has proven to be a very effective law enforcement tool reducing gunshot incidences by approximately 90 percent in the covered area.
The first responsibility of government is public safety. Unfortunately, our Tea Party County Executive Ed Mangano has undermined public safety with his hardline opposition to common-sense gun control measures.
As county executive, I signed onto County Executives Against Illegal Guns and will do so again. I have worked with our law enforcement and district attorney to put the county on the path to safety. In order to do that, we need to increase the amount of police officers patrolling our neighborhoods, and Albany needs to finally pass microstamping legislation into law.
As county executive, I will continue the initiatives that were already proven successful under my previous administration. When I served as county executive, Nassau County was ranked the safest place in the nation with a population over 500,000, and had its lowest crime rate in decades. My initiatives taken to reduce gun violence, all funded with asset forfeiture funds, included:
1. The Nassau County Police Department and the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office teamed up to hold gun buyback programs at various religious establishments throughout the county in December 2008, May 2009, and September 2009, resulting in over 1,100 illegal operable handguns being recovered.
2. In 2009, we implemented ShotSpotter, a state-of-the-art gunshot location system. ShotSpotter accurately detects, pinpoints, and alerts police responders to gunfire and other explosive events. As implemented, ShotSpotter has been able to get life-saving care to critically injured victims while yielding a greater numbers of arrests and illegal handguns recovered.
3. In 2008, the Nassau County Police Department created and implemented a GunStoppers hotline (1-877-4GUN411) that offered residents the opportunity to call anonymously and provide information regarding illegal guns within the county.
4. My police commissioner implemented a policy of personally meeting with and shaking the hand of every police officer who recovered a gun.