Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano at Great Neck, NY. (March...

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano at Great Neck, NY. (March 15, 2012) Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano's threat to raise property taxes 13 percent if he can't borrow millions of dollars necessary to pay successful property tax appeal refunds wasn't really a threat.

Midway through his term -- despite a fiscal crisis and a state control board overseeing county finances -- Mangano still stands where he did on Day One: against increasing property taxes in a county that is already the second-highest taxed in the nation.

But even if Mangano were to inexplicably change course -- as some residents appeared to think he did during last week's State of the County address -- Peter Schmitt, the legislature's presiding officer, wouldn't sign on.

Schmitt is adamantly opposed to raising property taxes, too.

But even if he were to change his mind, the legislature's Democratic minority wouldn't give Republicans enough votes to pierce the state's 2 percent property tax cap.

So that would be that.

So what happened last week? And why were some residents stunned to hear that Mangano might consider raising taxes?

Brian Nevin, a spokesman for Mangano, said that a county Republican Party representative called to ask the same question, too. He needn't have bothered, Nevin said, because, as Mangano made clear in the course of his speech, the county executive has plans to do no such thing.

Last week's comments were the latest in a series of rhetorical turns by Mangano to drum up support to fight Democrats -- or anyone else -- opposed to changes he wants to make in county government.

In 2010, the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, a fiscal control board overseeing county finances, wanted, among other things, to curtail how much Mangano wanted to borrow.

Mangano's response?

He said NIFA was trying to force him to raise needed revenue by hiking property taxes by 21.5 percent.

When opponents -- including, for a time, legislative Democrats -- panned a proposal to turn the management of county bus service over to a private company, Mangano countered that the plan would save residents $26 million in property tax increases.

The plan to consolidate the county's police precincts from eight to four generated a robocall from Mangano -- who said defeating the plan could cause a 19 percent increase in property taxes.

In Wednesday's speech, Mangano said that opposition to borrowing for tax refunds would generate a 13 percent increase; but in a letter to residents still waiting to get refund money, Mangano sought support to "keep Democrats from forcing a 25 percent property tax hike on you."

Why the rhetoric?

For one, Mangano is openly attempting to pin the blame or even the thought of a tax increase on his opponents. "Our message to Democrats is that you can't say no to everything," Nevin said.

And the message for residents? "We're trying to tell the public that tough decisions have to be made because the alternative is that we would have to raise the property taxes," Nevin said. "And we are not going to do it."

But residents have something to do with Mangano's persistent stand on property taxes, too.

Last summer, in a twist on his standard rhetoric, Mangano asked residents to approve a referendum to develop the area around Nassau Coliseum, a move that would raise property taxes 3.5 percent to 4 percent. The proposition failed, miserably.

Message sent; message -- most assuredly -- received.

Newsday LogoSUBSCRIBEUnlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months