TODAY'S PAPER
53° Good Morning
53° Good Morning
Long IslandNassau

Nassau lawmakers balk at borrowing to expand school speed warning signs

A speed limit sign is seen along Stewart

A speed limit sign is seen along Stewart Avenue in Bethpage on Friday, Aug. 22, 2014. Credit: Jeremy Bales

The Nassau County Legislature balked Monday at a plan to borrow $6.5 million to install flashing warning signs outside more than 400 public and private schools -- including sites where new speed cameras are operating.

Republican County Executive Edward Mangano last week asked the GOP-controlled legislature to approve bonding for the program. His move followed complaints from motorists about a lack of warning signs about the cameras, which are up at 26 public schools and will be operating at 56 sites by year's end.

But lawmakers, even those who support the additional warning, expressed concern about the cost of immediately installing signage at all 434 public and private school sites, rather than starting with the 56 sites.

The bonding request, which would need 13 votes, including at least two Democrats, had been scheduled for consideration at Monday's Rules Committee meeting, but it wasn't called up. Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) said the Republican majority would review alternatives over the next two weeks.

"We have 56 locations. I think that's where we start," Gonsalves said of the signs.

The new signs would notify motorists they are entering a school zone. Lights would blink when school is in session.

Mangano has proposed the signage to comply with state regulations calling for school speed limits to be clearly marked. Typically, towns and villages are responsible for installing the lights and signs.

The administration cited safety concerns in moving to install the signs. It hopes to begin installation in January and have the signs at every school by the beginning of next school year.

"The Legislature requested a plan to put signage at school districts, and the administration presented them with such a plan. We look forward to their input," Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin said Monday.

Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said Nassau should pay for the signs out of operating expenses. He said minority Democrats, who first proposed putting up more signs, support the extra proposed signage but not the borrowing.

"Funding it via bonding seems completely irresponsible on behalf of taxpayers, who were assured by the administration numerous times that these cameras would more than pay for itself," Abrahams said.

The speed cameras generally operate from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m., although times vary slightly at some locations. Violators must pay $80 in fines and fees, and Mangano estimates they'll generate $30 million in annual revenue to help pay for salary increases in new labor contracts.

Nassau top stories