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Nassau Legislature OKs borrowing for retirement buyout

The Nassau County Legislature approved Monday $86 million in borrowing to pay for an early retirement program for county workers that lawmakers said would reduce county annual operating costs, but add to the county's long-term debt.

The measure was proposed by County Executive Edward Mangano to shed older and higher-paid workers from the county's payroll.

All 11 Republicans voted approval without comment; all eight Democrats also voted approval, but all gave a short speech stressing they did so reluctantly.

Democratic Legis. Wayne Wink of Roslyn accused the administration of Mangano, a Republican, of being "cynical" by proposing the exact $86-million figure that his Democratic predecessor, Thomas Suozzi, had used for a similar buyout program last year that was approved by the then-Democratic legislative majority.

Democrats spent much of the hearing hammering at Mangano's top budget aide, Deputy County Executive Timothy Sullivan, about the proposal. Legis. Diane Yatauro (D-Glen Cove,) the Democratic minority leader, said that $26 million already in the budget for normal retirement payouts should be used before resorting to borrowing.

Sullivan fired back at the Democrats saying that if the $26 million was not needed for the buyout program, it would be used to help balance the budget. "Madame minority leader, if I inherited a balanced budget, it would be easier," he said.

Suozzi has said he left Mangano a balanced budget, but Mangano said there is a $130-million budget gap this year and a projected gap of $286 million next year.

This year's early retirement program will include police officers for the first time, Sullivan said, making it more costly because of the relatively high salaries of Nassau officers. County employees also will be eligible for early retirement under a newly adopted state law that provides incentives for workers who are not near retirement age, which should expand the pool, Sullivan said. Nassau would bear the full cost of both programs.Sullivan said he had originally projected that 300 workers would take the package, including 75 police officers, but he said that the numbers would probably increase. About 345 workers took the buyout last year, he said.

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