Nassau County Executive Laura Curran filed a $3.11 billion operating budget Monday that eliminates 66 vacant positions and includes no increase in property taxes or fees, officials said.
However, funding for the jobs — about $7 million — will remain in agency budgets and will be available to use for raises for county union workers.
The unions have been without labor contracts since the end of 2017 and negotiations for new agreements are underway. Curran's budget funds a workforce of 7,492 employees.
The issue of money for union raises became a flashpoint in the budgeting process last year after county officials said no money had been set aside in the 2019 budget for raises.
Majority Republicans in the county Legislature proposed a $12.4 million "contingency fund" to fund union raises.
Curran's 2020 budget, which the Legislature must approve by Oct. 30, also includes money for 14 new jobs in the Nassau District Attorney’s Office and nine more probation officers in the Sheriff's department.
The budget also adds $2 million to the Small Claims Assessment Review budget, which handles property tax challenges.
“We are maintaining spending discipline, while keeping all of our services and our current head count,” Curran said in an interview Monday. “We are very focused on maintaining fiscal discipline, on maintaining spending discipline, and not burdening the taxpayers further.”
Curran continued, “We want to make sure all of our departments can continue to provide the service, while modernizing and updating our payment and collection. We’re always looking to be more efficient and more modern when we do business, and looking to improve a level of service.”
For instance, Curran said the county treasurer's office is centralizing payment collections, and investing in a system to receive payments electronically.
In the new budget, the Curran administration projects $1.277 billion in sales tax revenues next year — 1.9 percent more than this year.
Last year, the county had predicted 2.5 percent growth in 2019. The estimate is more conservative this year because of concerns about the volatile national economy, county officials said.
Curran projected $14 million in sales tax revenues from internet sales, amounting to 1 percent of sales tax collections. The online tax revenues will help fund new county initiatives.
Nassau County officials also projected $25 million in new tax revenues from a proposed $1.3 billion project to build a new arena for the New York Islanders at Belmont State Park.
However, Nassau isn't expected to collect that money until 2021, Deputy County Executive Raymond Orlando said.
Last year, Curran sued the county Legislature over changes they approved to her 2019 budget. The legislative amendments included the Republicans' contingency fund, and money to restore police precincts closed in a consolidation effort by former County Executive Edward Mangano, a Republican.
Curran ultimately vetoed the budget changes in a deal with Democratic lawmakers in which she promised to restore closed precincts and NICE bus routes.
Democratic legislators, who had approved the original amendments to Curran's $3.075 billion budget for this year, ultimately provided Curran with the votes necessary to uphold her veto.
All 19 county legislators are up for reelection in November.
Jerry Laricchiuta, president of the Civil Service Employees Association, Nassau's largest union, said he planned to lobby legislators to restore the positions Curran eliminated in her new budget.
“Every single department in Nassau County is in crisis mode because of the refusal to hire under this administration,” Laricchiuta said Monday. “They are spending millions on subcontractors, but they are not hiring.”
Laricchiuta said there have been four meetings between the administration and union leaders over a new labor agreement.
“We came to the table, and I walked away,” he said.
Curran said Monday all unions have come to the bargaining table except the Nassau Police Benevolent Association, which represents patrol officers.
Legislative Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) said in a statement that Republicans, "will closely review the County Executive's budget to ensure it is fiscally responsible and does not put additional burdens on Nassau taxpayers."
Minority Leader Kevan M. Abrahams (D-Freeport) said a "no-tax increase budget with improved services and fiscally competent projections is a good start … We look forward to the budget hearings and completing a rigorous review of the proposed 2020 budget.”
Proposed Nassau County budget for 2020
- $3.11 billion for the five major operating funds.
- 66 vacant positions eliminated.
- Workforce funded: 7,492 employees
- Projected sales tax revenues: $1.277 billion
Source: Nassau County Executive