Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano appears at a news conference...

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano appears at a news conference after the meeting with Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy and Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino to discuss regional and statewide issues that affect each county. (May 5, 2010) Credit: Newsday / Karen Wiles Stabile

Republicans on the Nassau County Legislature voted Monday in favor of creating a new county department that Republican County Executive Edward Mangano said would save money by consolidating similar functions in one place.

Democrats voted against the creation of the Department of Shared Services, saying there was no evidence the move would save money. The party-line vote was 10-8 in favor.

"I think the savings will come because we're going to roll it out in a fashion that will make the most sense," Chief Deputy County Executive Rob Walker told the legislators before the vote.

The legislative approval comes as the county struggles with projected budget gaps of $133 million this year and $286.5 million next year. Mangano is trying to assure the public and fiscal watchdogs that he is doing all he can to control costs.

Walker said the initial focus would be to consolidate human resources and accountable functions now spread across dozens of agencies into a single Department of Shared Services.

The Office of Purchasing would be merged into the new department, Walker said, and the county will not implement the plan until it has a chance to study the results of an early retirement program it has offered to senior county employees in an effort to lower salary costs.

"I don't see that there's an alternative to trying something new," Legis. Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) said. "We cannot accept the status quo. We have monumental deficits in front of us. This may work. It may not work. But not to try is not an option."

The legislature also approved the Nassau Community College budget of $202.9 million for next year, which raises tuition $110 a year while keeping spending levels about the same as last year.

A measure that would change the way owners of commercial properties challenge their tax assessment was on the agenda, but not called up.

Aides to Mangano said negotiations were continuing with owner representatives on his Assessment Review Team to work out a settlement, and the legislature might hold a special session next week to address the issue.

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