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Mangano seeks $15 million in new fees for golf, museum admission, parking

Chris Dispigno, a New York City print shop

Chris Dispigno, a New York City print shop manager, tees off on the first hole on Eisenhower Park Red golf course in East Meadow on May 1, 2007. Credit: Ari Mintz

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano has proposed new fees for a wide variety of county services that could bring increases for golf, home renovation permits, museum admission and parking at Nickerson Beach.

The fees, which require approval of the GOP-led Nassau County Legislature, represent the second increase in county fees in less than two years.

The $15 million in expected new revenue from the fee increases would be used to help defray the cost of new labor contracts for county employees, administration officials said.

The proposed fees come less than two weeks after the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, a state monitoring board in control of the county's finances, approved contracts for four county labor unions that are expected to cost at least $130 million.

Deputy County Executive for Finance Tim Sullivan said the fee increases will be factored into the county's four-year budget plan, which is being revised to account for the new labor costs.

NIFA chairman Jon Kaiman said county officials discussed raising fees to help pay for the labor deals, but noted that the board has no control over the hikes.

Legislative documents indicate the fee increases also are needed to pay for higher maintenance expenses at county parks and to cover losses from traffic ticket scofflaws.

"Most of the fees bring the county on par with neighboring municipalities and defer the costs associated with delivering the service or making capital investments to improve the service," Sullivan said.

Legis. David Denenberg (D-Merrick) called the fee increases "nothing more than backdoor tax increase. A tax hike by any other name is still money out of the pockets of hard-pressed taxpayers."

The eight Democratic legislators plan to vote against the bills, said Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport).

Sullivan said the hikes are "not a tax increase as these user fees are just that, a fee to defray the costs associated with discretionary service."

A spokeswoman said Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) still is reviewing the measures. The legislature has not scheduled a vote on the bills.

The nonpartisan Office of Legislative Budget Review reported last year that Nassau residents and businesses paid roughly $100 million in new or increased fees between 2011 and 2013.

In 2012, lawmakers approved fee hikes for transporting accident victims by police helicopter to hospitals, processing traffic violations, filing documents with the county clerk and obtaining home improvement licenses.

Last week, Nassau said it would begin enforcing licencing fee increases, also passed by the legislature in 2012, on dry cleaners, junk dealers and home service contractors.

Under the new proposals, the Parks Department would raise the maximum amount it could charge for park activities, although Sullivan said officials would have discretion in implementing fee hikes.

Parks fees could rise, officials said. For example, the maximum for a daily parking pass at Nickerson Beach for Nassau residents with a Leisure Pass would go from $8 to $10. More than 15,000 Nassau residents paid the daily beach parking fee last year.

Golfing at Eisenhower Park's three 18-hole courses would cost residents a maximum of $4 more. For example, the price for residents to play the Blue course on weekends would increase from $36 to a maximum of $40. In 2013, more than 154,000 rounds of golf were played at Eisenhower.

Maximum admission for adults at Old Bethpage Restoration Village would go from $10 to $11, while the maximum admission at Tackapausha Museum and Preserve in Seaford would rise from $3 to $4.

The Traffic and Parking Violations Agency is proposing six new processing fees, including $15 for scofflaws who fail to respond to tickets and $75 for motorists who don't appear for hearings. The fees will generate about $2 million in annual revenue, officials said.

The owners of more than 44,000 vehicles have at least two outstanding Nassau parking tickets and owe the county $29.2 million, while the owners of nearly 34,000 vehicles have at least two outstanding red light camera tickets and owe the county $8.2 million.

A private vendor hired by Nassau has booted more than 5,400 cars since March 2012 and towed 193 vehicles, allowing the county to claw back more than $3.6 million in outstanding fines and fees, Sullivan said.

The Department of Public Works would boost fees by 13 percent to 20 percent for administrative functions, including reviewing applications for building permits forwarded to towns, cities and villages and inspecting renovated properties.

Officials said the hikes are needed because of the high amount of staff time dedicated to reviewing and administering the applications.Another bill would allow Nassau Police to boot and tow vehicles with a combination of two unpaid parking or red light camera tickets. Nassau currently boots and tows vehicles with three unpaid parking tickets or three unpaid red light camera tickets.

The Assessment Department would hike the cost of verifying property lot records from $50 to $75, bringing Nassau's costs on par with Suffolk.

The department for the first time would also charge to produce radius maps required when a property owner needs a permit or variance from a town or village. The maps are now available only from private companies.


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