TODAY'S PAPER
53° Good Morning
53° Good Morning
Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

Nassau crossing guard retirements signal shift to hire in other departments

School crossing guard Shirley Cunningham directs traffic at

School crossing guard Shirley Cunningham directs traffic at the intersection of Fulton Avenue and Clinton Street in Hempstead on June 16, 2014. Credit: Newsday / Jessica Rotkiewicz

Forty school crossing guards have put in for retirement in Nassau. And, no, it has nothing to do with the county's new school-zone speed camera program.

The guards are among more than 200 Civil Service Employees Association members -- more than two times what officials were expecting -- jumping at Nassau's incentive to retire early.

Some residents might be wondering about the impact of so many retirements -- from a pool of public employees already shallow through decades of cost-cutting -- on services.

To be sure, there will be some. There have to be because Nassau will be operating with the lowest number of employees since the 1980s. And the number of county jobs has decreased significantly since then as well.

Since the 1980s, when then-County Executive Thomas Gulotta had to make cuts, Nassau has let go of its public hospital (which still has some public employees) and engineered multiple departmental nips, cuts and consolidations.

Under County Executive Edward Mangano, the shedding of county jobs and employees continued with Nassau handing over management of its bus company and, more recently, its sewer and storm water system to private managers.

In addition, the county has crafted multiple private-public agreements that essentially leave some maintenance and upkeep cost in portions of multiple county parks to others.

So what will the latest retirements bring?

In the short term, yes, there will be fewer employees, but Mangano said he anticipated that by sometime in 2015, Nassau -- which now has 7,395 employees on its payroll -- will grow back to that number.

Part of that will come from Nassau replacing retiring school crossing guards and other essential retiring personnel, including probation officers. The biggest increase, however, will come from more than 100 police officers the county plans to hire, Mangano said.

The county anticipates generating some savings by replacing retiring veterans -- whose salaries generally have increased during their tenure -- with new workers who would earn lower salaries and take on a portion of an increasing county expense by contributing to health care plan costs.

Even at that, however, not every retiree post would be replaced -- and not all would be replaced with workers hired under contract agreements that Nassau and its unions reached a few months ago.

Once management of Nassau's sewer and storm water system goes private, workers not hired by the manager, United Water, would be redistributed in posts throughout the county.

Some, one administration official said recently, could go to the county's traffic enforcement and violations bureau -- which, in the short term at least, is anticipated to be flooded with citations generated by school-zone speed cameras.

Mangano said Friday that sewer employees also would continue doing storm water-related work, such as cleaning drains, for the county, while others -- under an agreement guaranteeing them jobs -- probably would be scattered across other departments where there are openings for electricians, mechanics and other related jobs.

As for services, "Seven three nine five turns out to be the right number for running the county," said Mangano, whose administration even now is working on a budget for next year.

The county's need to cut expenses, as the cost of union contracts rises and needed sales-tax revenue decreases, spurred Nassau to offer CSEA members the incentive in the first place.

That and, as likely, the fact that the union -- unlike others, including police, in Nassau -- has no clause in its contract protecting members from layoffs.

Latest Long Island News