Facing a Wednesday deadline to produce a 2011 budget, Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano is struggling to find ways to close a nearly $300-million deficit.
While he promises a balanced spending plan without raising taxes, real solutions have yet to be found, officials say privately.
County unions, which made concessions last year, are refusing further givebacks and their contracts ban layoffs or furloughs. Insiders are speculating about the possibility of a state monitoring board stepping in to freeze union agreements.
Among the gap-closing plans that have been discussed are paying Nassau's $100 million in property tax refunds with borrowed money rather than using any operating funds; eliminating the county's longtime guarantee to pay school and town tax refunds; selling county property; ending youth programs; closing museums and slashing the pay of appointed employees.
The administration also expects to save money by not replacing many of the 460 employees, including 125 police officers, who are taking a retirement incentive program this year.
Mangano Thursday declined to comment on possible cuts or his discussions with union leaders. "Painful decisions are being made and we're trying to do it in a manner that has the least impact on services," he said.
By county charter, Mangano must submit his proposed budget by Sept. 15. The county legislature is required to adopt a budget by Oct. 31.
Mangano said he will meet the deadline to submit the 2011 budget. "We will produce a budget that has no tax increase and provides the least amount of pain possible that's associated with closing a $286-million deficit," he said.
So far, county legislators have not been briefed on the spending plans. "We'll wait for the budget," said Ed Ward, spokesman for Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt (R-Massapequa).
All union leaders met with Mangano this week, the police unions twice. County and union officials say Mangano pressed for cost cuts and asked police to meet with longtime arbitrator Martin Scheinman, who helped craft some $50 million in concessions last year under former County Executive Thomas Suozzi.
So far, none of the unions has blinked.
"We currently have a contract in place and all the unions are in the middle of a concession plan that runs through the end of 2011," said Police Benevolent Association president James Carver. He said givebacks cost each of his members $7,000 last year, and a total of $7,000 this year and next. "The PBA is not negotiating any further concessions."
Jerry Laricchiuta, president of Nassau's Civil Service Employees Association, said his members have not received raises since 2007. With other givebacks, the CSEA contributed $23 million of the $50 million in concessions. "That was a lot of money to come out of the lowest paid workers in the county," he said. "We accepted it under the promise of no more."
The Nassau Interim Finance Authority, a state monitoring board, has the power to take control of Nassau's finances if there is a 1 percent deficit. NIFA then could freeze union contracts. Nassau's 2010 budget was $2.6 billion. The $286-million deficit reflects 11 percent of the budget.