Long Island Bus riders, employees and community leaders rallied Thursday outside the offices of the Nassau County executive, again urging him to reconsider his plan to privatize the financially struggling county bus system.

More than a dozen protesters gathered on the steps of the County Executive and Legislative Building in Mineola to urge Edward Mangano to negotiate a resolution that would keep the Metropolitan Transportation Authority as the operator of LI Bus and avert devastating service cuts.

"They need to get down to business -- all parties involved -- and avert this crisis," said the Rev. Paul Johnson of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock in Manhasset.

County spokeswoman Katie Grilli-Robles said that county officials are concerned about MTA bus drivers' jobs, but are acting to protect taxpayers.

Grilli-Robles also said privatization "will restore most if not all bus routes that our residents rely on to meet their daily travel needs."

The MTA plans to eliminate more than half of LI Bus' 48 lines, blaming inadequate funding from the county, which owns the bus system but contributes only $9.1 million to its $140-million operating budget.

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