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Mangano proposes $3.8 million cut in NICE bus funding

The Nassau Inter-County Express Elmont Flexi stops on

The Nassau Inter-County Express Elmont Flexi stops on Meacham Avenue near Hempstead Turnpike in Elmont, Friday, Nov. 18, 2016. The service is facing a seven-figure deficit and is proposing another round of service cuts to some routes. Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano cut $21 million in spending Monday from his 2017 budget as county lawmakers voted to hike real estate fees to raise $15 million to address concerns raised by the county’s fiscal control board.

Mangano’s plan includes $3.8 million in cuts for the county’s bus operator, which likely would lead to the elimination of routes with low ridership.

The administrations would preserve funding for youth services, volunteer fire departments and the Problem-Oriented Police program — all of which had been targeted for potential cuts.

The legislature’s and Mangano’s deficit-reduction plans were meant to satisfy the county’s financial control board, the Nassau Interim Finance Authority.

NIFA voted last week to reject Mangano’s $2.9 billion budget, citing a $36 million gap that opened when lawmakers cut a $105 fee on traffic and parking tickets. NIFA directed the administration and the legislature to submit amended plans by Monday with spending cuts or revenue hikes. NIFA officials warned that without the changes, the board would impose measures that could include rejection of contracts and borrowing.

In party-line votes, the Legislature’s Rules and Finance committees, both controlled by Republicans, voted Monday to increase the fee to verify tax maps on most real estate transactions from $225 to $355, to raise $15 million in new revenues.

Legis. Steven Rhoads (R-Bellmore) said the increase was necessary to protect youth programs and volunteer fire services. “No one is happy about it but governance is about making tough choices,” he said.

The full Legislature will vote on the fee hike Dec. 14.

The Mangano administration’s proposal includes $3.8 million in reductions for utilities, equipment and general expenses; delayed borrowing for capital projects to save $1.7 million; and suspension of $1.25 million in aid to villages, said Eric Naughton, Nassau’s deputy county executive for finance.

The county also would save $1 million by not filling vacant positions and reduce spending for Social Services and Health Department programs by $700,000.

The police department would see a $1.2 million cut under Mangano’s plan.

Officials said that could mean reductions in daily staffing in several units, possibly including Community-Oriented Police Enforcement, which manages quality of life concerns; the public information office, which handles news media inquires, and the police academy, where new recruits are trained. At least 30 police officials would be moved to patrol to reduce overtime.

The department would save an additional $2.7 million by delaying the hiring of 120 police recruits from December until March. A class of another 120 recruits would be delayed from April until September.

Every Nassau elected office — county executive, district attorney, comptroller, clerk and the legislature — would experience cuts. The Regional Planning Board would be suspended and funding for Board of Elections would be reduced.

Mangano’s cuts to Nassau Inter-County Express bus service could lead to the elimination of routes in Freeport, Rockville Centre and Elmont, the administration said.

“It’s a job-killing cut for people that need to get to work,” said Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport).

In January, NICE eliminated 11 routes to close a $7.5 million budget gap. But a $3 million Nassau bailout allowed NICE to restore most of the service.

The 2017 budget would now eliminate all discretionary bus funds. Nassau will continue to provide $2.6 million in mandatory bus subsidies needed to get $66 million in state funds.

“NICE is planning for several service reduction contingencies, with the hope that we are able to sufficiently close our budget gap and limit the impact on riders,” said NICE Chief Executive Michael Setzer.

Mangano, who has pleaded not guilty to federal corruption charges, had proposed raising $66 million in his 2017 budget through a $105 fee on traffic and parking tickets. But the legislature cut the fee to $55 for traffic tickets and eliminated it on parking violations — creating a $36 million budget hole.

GOP legislators planned to fill the shortfall with revenue from an amnesty program to allow businesses that have not complied with a county law requiring them to report their finances in a timely manner to pay only 75 percent of their fines. But NIFA rejected the plan as the income and expense law is under court challenge.

Revenue from the amnesty program could be used to restore some cuts, Naughton said.

With William Murphy

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