Majority Republicans on the Nassau County Legislature have decided to back the most hotly debated fee hike in County Executive Edward Mangano’s 2017 budget: a $105 surcharge on all traffic and parking tickets to pay for new police officers.
Republicans late Monday filed amendments to Mangano’s $2.9 billion budget, which would raise $82.5 million in new and increased fees — $66 million from the new “public safety fee.” Property tax rates remain flat.
The amendments eliminate a proposed $2 million chargeback to towns and cities for election costs and hikes in alarm permit and mortgage recording fees, which were expected to raise nearly $7 million.
To make up for the lost revenue, the GOP proposes reducing “overestimated” debt service and social services costs. Lawmakers will meet Monday to vote on the amendments and the overall 2017 spending plan.
Political analysts say Mangano, a Republican, may find it tougher to achieve his agenda after federal corruption charges of conspiracy to commit bribery, fraud and obstruction were filed against him last week. Mangano has pleaded not guilty.
The $105 ticket surcharge, however, will not be a casualty.
While the fee has generated public complaints, lawmakers heeded the administration’s warnings that killing it would leave the county with no real alternative to fund the hiring of 150 new police officers and 81 civilian police department employees.
Acting police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter testified at budget hearings that public safety would be “impaired” and community policing and investigative units would be slashed without the fee.
“We were faced with a difficult decision, and we realized that making a tough choice is better for Nassau’s residents than making no choice,” said presiding officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow).
She criticized legislative Democrats for offering no budget amendments, although in previous years the minority’s bills rarely gained Republican support.
Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said it would have been “futile” to file amendments.
“Frankly, County Executive Mangano’s 2017 proposed budget is too broke to be salvaged with simple amendments,” Abrahams said. He called on Gonsalves to reject the public safety fee, calling it an “illegal tax.”
Asked about lawmakers’ retention of the ticket fee, Mangano’s finance deputy Eric Naughton said: “The legislature continues to work with the administration to strengthen Nassau’s finances while freezing property taxes, intensifying police resources and maintaining quality of life services for residents.”
Upon legislative approval, the county’s state fiscal control board, the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, must vote on the budget. A spokesman for NIFA chairman Adam Barsky declined to comment Tuesday.