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Nassau lawmakers approve union retirement incentive

"This is another cost-saving initiative aimed at protecting taxpayers wallets," said County Executive Edward Mangano, who submitted the plan to the GOP-controlled county Legislature. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

The Nassau County Legislature voted unanimously Friday to offer early retirement incentives to members of the Civil Service Employees Association, as the county seeks to reduce labor costs in the face of a projected $90 million shortfall in sales tax revenue.

Lawmakers also approved $159 million in new borrowing for capital projects, including $87 million in upgrades and repairs to the county's sewage treatment system.

The retirement incentive offers departing CSEA employees a lump sum of $1,000 for every year of service with the county.

The legislature approved $5 million in borrowing to pay for the incentive and termination pay for unused vacation, sick and personal days. Employees must sign up for the incentive by Sept. 12.

Deputy County Executive Rob Walker said the $5 million would cover roughly 125 departing employees. To date, 50 CSEA employees have put in for the incentive, he said.

The county will replace some departing employees, such as 911 operators and probation officers, with new hires.

A new labor deal with county labor unions which ended a three-year wage freeze requires new hires to contribute 15 percent to their health insurance if they choose a premium plan. They could also choose a less costly plan and not contribute.

Other vacant spots will be filled by sewage treatment plant employees who are not hired by the private operator the county has retained to manage the system beginning later this year, Walker said.

Legis. Denise Ford (R-Long Beach) expressed "concern" with county staffing levels, now at 7,265 full-time workers. "I'm not sure how much lower we can go," Ford said.

CSEA president Jerry Laricchiuta said "we owe it to residents of this county to provide these services. We cannot do any more with any less."

County Comptroller George Maragos found in July that sales taxes were down by 9 percent for the first six months of 2014, and that revenue would have to increase by 11.7 percent for the rest of this year to reach the adopted budget of $1.16 billion.

The $159.6 million capital budget, also approved unanimously, includes $87.3 million for sewer and storm water projects, including $22.8 million to rehabilitate pumping stations and $10 million for odor control. The spending is not attributable to superstorm Sandy and therefore cannot be reimbursed by the federal government, Walker said.

Nassau also will spend $23.5 million to repave roads, $22 million to begin construction of a new Family and Matrimonial Court in Garden City and $10 million to begin building a new crime lab in New Cassel.

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