Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano wants the GOP-controlled legislature to approve $6.5 million in borrowing to pay for signs with flashing yellow warning lights at all 434 public and private schools in the county, including sites where new speed cameras are operating.
Mangano, a Republican, made the funding request on Monday in an amendment to his 2014 capital budget, following complaints from county legislators about a lack of signage notifying motorists of the cameras. The county operates 23 fixed and mobile cameras and by year's end will have a camera operating outside one school in each of Nassau's 56 public school districts.
Mike Martino, spokesman for Nassau's public works department, said the $6.5 million program represented an expansion of the existing speed camera signs. The new flashing warning signs, which would notify motorists they are entering a school zone, would be placed outside the 310 public schools and 124 private schools in the county. The lights blink only when school is in session.
"The goal of this program is safety, and every school zone will have a blinking light regardless of the presence of a camera," Martino said.
Installation is expected to begin in January and be complete before the 2015-2016 school year, he said. The legislature's Rules Committee is scheduled to vote on the amendment Monday.
Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin said signs notifying motorists of the cameras and their operating times are in place at all locations with an active speed camera.
The bonding amendment requires 13 votes, including at least two Democrats.
Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) said she supported the borrowing. "The lights will help make drivers aware of the school crossings, and help delineate when the school speed limit is in effect," she said.
Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said his caucus supports the initiative but wants Mangano to pay for the warning signs out of the county operating budget. "There is no reason why we should be saddling taxpayers with $6.5 million in new borrowing," he said.
Nevin said the signs are capital improvements, which are funded through borrowing.
Legis. Dave Denenberg (D-Merrick) and Legis. Judy Jacobs (D-Woodbury) first introduced a bill last month calling for the flashing warning signs at schools with speed cameras.
The move to add flashing signs countywide came after the county's summer rollout of the speed camera program, when motorists complained they were not given notification the cameras were operating.
Mangano dismissed 39,915 tickets carrying $2.4 million in fines generated during the summer after some cameras malfunctioned or became operational prematurely, resulting in 9,807 citations issued in error.
The cameras generally operate from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m., although times may vary slightly at some locations. Violators must pay $80 in fines and fees.
Warning signs are required in all school speed zones. The state supplement to the federal traffic control manual states that school speed limit signs must have an additional sign showing either the hours school is in session; a sign showing the hours plus flashing lights that operate only when the school speed limit is in effect; or a flashing sign with lights that operate only when the school speed limit is in effect.
With Judy Cartwright