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Nassau legislator offers $60M in budget changes

The Republican leader of the Nassau Legislature was expected to file $60 million in changes Friday to County Executive Edward Mangano's proposed $2.6-billion budget for 2011, including a 5 percent reduction in legislative staff salaries.

Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt (R-Massapequa) said he wanted to create a $60-million cushion for fellow Republican Mangano - while holding the line on property taxes - in case some of the county executive's initiatives, including projections of $60 million in union savings, do not come through next year.

If Mangano negotiates union savings, Schmitt said, then the $60 million would be a reserve fund for 2012. The proposed changes come as three fiscal watchdogs have termed risky nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in Mangano's budget because the expected revenues or savings may not be realized.

Although Democrats were quick to criticize the changes as gimmicks, Schmitt said, "It's $60 million in real revenues they can tap into. It makes this budget solid. It answers my concerns."

The changes, expected to be approved with the budget next Friday, would include selling 30 years of rental income from Mitchel Field leases for an upfront payment of $30 million next year - something Mangano has talked about recently and included in future budget plans.

Schmitt is also adding $25 million from land sales already in the pipeline; reducing general expenses, such as supply purchases, by $1.5 million; cutting phone-service costs by $500,000 by reducing the county's 20,000 land lines and changing to Internet-based service; saving $1 million through more stringent auditing of Workers' Compensation claims; reducing outside counsel contracts by $2 million, and reducing legislative salaries by 5 percent for both Republicans and Democrats, saving about $260,000. There are a total of 47 employees.

Word of the changes drew immediate criticism from Minority Leader Diane Yatauro (D-Glen Cove). "Mr. Schmitt and the administration have attempted to balance the budget through one-shots, gimmicks and the sale of valuable county resources. Mr. Schmitt's proposals underscore Mr. Mangano's failure to deliver on his promise of a balanced budget."

Schmitt said he had run the amendments past Mangano and his financial advisers Thursday. "Our financial analysts look forward to reviewing the amendments," said Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin.

No changes were made to a proposed $60-million increase in fees, Schmitt said, among them a new sewage treatment charge for local governments and nonprofit organizations, including North Shore University Hospital and Hofstra University.

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