As the symbolic 100-day mark of his administration neared earlier this month, Edward Mangano had a pretty good day on his 98th as Nassau County executive.
Republican Mangano brokered a deal with the minority Democrats on the Nassau County Legislature to amend the county's $166-million capital spending plan to make it meet his priorities. And he smoothed over concerns Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer and Republican County Comptroller George Maragos had over the impact of health care reform on county government.
"I would say that after 100 days in office I have worked hard to fulfill my pledges," he said. "I won't stop until I can look taxpayers squarely in the face and say I've done all I can to help."
Mangano has repealed an energy tax, as he promised, and reduced the number of deputy county executives to three from six. But the outcomes of his other stated priorities, such as cutting wasteful spending, are tougher to measure and may well be in the eye of the beholder.
The leading Democrat in county government, Legis. Diane Yatauro of Glen Cove, said she found little of substance in Mangano's record so far.
"I can't say much since he hasn't done much," Yatauro, the legislative minority leader, said. She said he has failed to produce a plan that lowers taxes and balances the budget.
Dealing with the deficit
Last month, Mangano released a revised budget that filled a projected $48.5-million deficit, listing a series of small spending cuts and revenue increases along with a $22-million reduction in payroll. He did so after the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, the state fiscal monitoring board, asked in January how he would close the county's projected budget gaps after he repealed the 2.5 percent sales tax on home heating fuel, effective in June.
Focusing on appointed management positions, Mangano said he has cut jobs and reduced salaries to save $9.63 million, including $1.7 million in the county executive's office. He said he expects to eliminate more than 350 jobs by the time he finishes analyzing all 47 county departments.
The overall size of the workforce has not changed appreciably, down by 120 positions to 8,659 as of April 1, according to figures compiled by the Office of Legislative Budget Review.
Mangano's response was that many of the jobs he cut were higher-paying managerial positions. "Those are six-figure salaries, many of them in the high 80s or 90s," he said.
One bit of good news is that sales tax revenue has stopped dropping, and even ticked upward in recent weeks, compared to last year - which was a very bad year.
A property tax challenge
He promised recently to freeze property tax assessments for four years while he reforms the system to ensure that homes and businesses are assessed correctly, with the goal of greatly reducing refunds from tax grievances.
Making good on a campaign pledge, Mangano signed an executive order creating the four-year cycle as a way to stabilize values, rather than surprising homeowners with different assessments every year.
However, the freeze will require state legislative approval, and even members of his own tax assessment team are unsure how the fix will work. "The devil will be in the details," Jericho real estate executive Mark Hamer, a member of the assessment review team, said.
Several Democratic legislators noted that Mangano had retained County Tax Assessor Ted Jankowski, who had been criticized by Republicans last year while they were in the minority. The legislators said that if the assessment system was as bad as Mangano claimed, it made no sense to retain Jankowski, but if was not, then Republican criticism had been unfair.
The cost of tax repeal
On his first day in office he signed the repeal of the 6-month-old sales tax on home energy use, which will blow a $19-million hole in this year's budget after the repeal takes effect at the end of June, and a $39-million hole in next year's budget.
His Democratic critics said he has failed to show how he will make up next year's shortfall, but Mangano said he will address that issue in his report to NIFA later this year.
Yatauro pointed out that Mangano had not sought to end the tax immediately, and was allowing it to expire June 30, giving him six more months of revenue. "He repealed the home energy tax so why are we still paying it?" Yatauro said.
An engine for jobs
Mangano said he has shifted money around the capital budget, moving some from consultant contracts into road repair and other projects that will generate private-sector jobs.
And he said his green-energy program will provide jobs by offering incentives to home and business to make capital improvements, such as installing energy-saving furnaces or central airconditioning.
However, Serge Martinez, a Hofstra law professors who provides legal advice to nonprofits, said he would have liked for Mangano to reach out to community and immigrant groups to help them.
"They are the bottom of the jobs ladder and are desperate for work, and I haven't seen him reach out to them," Martinez said. "But, in fairness, I'm not sure Tom Suozzi did much of that either."
John Durso, head of the Long Island Federation of Labor, said just before the deal on the capital budget was announced that Mangano was "one of the few executives on Long Island, town and county, who has committed to putting people to work."
Talking to workers
Even as he tries to cut the size of the workforce, Mangano has made efforts to speak directly to county workers, listen to their complaints and suggestions, and thank them for their work.
Jerry Laricchiuta, the CSEA Local 830 president who accompanied Mangano on workplace tours, said he thought the county executive was "saying all the right things, and we're listening intently."
He said it was "a great gesture" when Mangano shifted civilian mechanics who work on police vehicles back to police department supervision after they had worked under the Department of Public Works as part of an experiment last year.
One Democratic legislator said, however, that Mangano did not give the experiment with mechanics enough time to determine whether it was working.
"We're never going to get the opportunity to see whether there was saving because they pulled the plug on this too quickly," said Legis. Wayne Wink of Roslyn, ranking member of the Committee on Government Services and Operations.