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Fees, cuts part of Nassau's $2.79B budget

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano looks over his

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano looks over his proposed 2013 county budget in his office in Mineola. (Sept. 18, 2012) Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano's 2013 budget calls for spending cuts for departments serving youth, seniors and the disabled; increases for housing and parks; and new fees for small-business owners and park users.

According to documents that became available Tuesday, the $2.79 billion budget would hold property taxes steady and increase spending by $44 million compared with projected total spending for 2012.

New two-year licenses for small-business owners, including scrap metal processors and secondhand precious metal and gem dealers, would bring in $1.6 million in new revenue over two years, officials said.

Parks users also would pay higher fees to play golf and set up campers at county facilities.

"This budget reflects the tough decisions made over the past two years to cut spending and keep Nassau on the path to fiscal stability," Mangano, a Republican, said.

Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) reacted cautiously, saying past Mangano budgets relied on optimistic projections that never materialized.

Mangano's budget "slashes essential services and does nothing to provide relief to Nassau's already overtaxed residents," Abrahams said. "Additionally, his outrageous job-killing fee increases will drive businesses and customers out of the county, further crippling our fragile economy."

The budget comes during a turbulent period for county finances. Nassau's budget deficit, which two years ago reached more than $300 million, led the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, a state fiscal monitoring board, to take control of the county's finances in 2011 and to freeze all wage increases.

The enacted budget for 2012 was also $2.79 billion, though Mangano officials said Tuesday that with cuts and employee retirements, spending for the year will total $2.74 billion.

Administration officials said Mangano's spending plan would produce a balanced budget in 2013, despite Comptroller George Maragos' warning that the county would end 2012 with a $45 million deficit unless steps were taken to raise revenues or cut costs. The county eliminated that potential deficit through staff retirements and assessment reforms, said Tim Sullivan, deputy county executive for finance.

Maragos declined Tuesday to comment about the specifics of the Mangano plan, saying he was reviewing it.

NIFA chairman Ron Stack said the board "is reviewing the budget and financial plan and we will not comment until their analysis is complete."

Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt (R-Massapequa) said Mangano should be "commended" for "a third no tax increase budget in a row."

Under the 411-page budget posted on the county's website Tuesday, most departments would see little change in their budget compared with their projected total spending for 2012.

However, Human Services would be cut 23 percent, from $41.7 million to $32 million, and the Board of Elections would be trimmed 14 percent, from $20.5 million to $17.7 million.

Departments that would receive increases include Housing and Community Development (54 percent, from $714,000 to $1.1 million) and the Parks Department (6.3 percent, from $18.9 million to $20.1 million).

While the budget proposal does not call for layoffs next year, it cuts the county payroll by 2.6 percent, or $21.3 million, from 2012 projected spending. The wage and salary savings will come from 47 correctional officers who have taken retirement incentives to leave the workforce in December, along with an undetermined number of county employees who are expected to be laid off later this year.

Civil Service Employees Association president Jerry Laricchiuta said he hoped that "despite his budgetary problems, the county executive will go in a different direction this year and not reduce services to residents any further."

The administration, which has cut staffing by 19 percent since 2009, expects to have 7,395 full-time employees by 2013.

In addition, the 2013 budget projects health insurance costs to increase countywide by $15 million while pension costs will jump by $32 million.

The budget does not anticipate savings from the potential privatization of the county's sewer system. NIFA officials had vowed to reject the budget if it included the sewer deal.

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