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Nassau OKs more borrowing to pay for retirement incentive

The Nassau County Legislature Monday approved the final $5 million in borrowing to pay the takers of an early retirement incentive for the county's largest municipal union -- bringing the total cost of coaxing more than 200 workers off the payroll to $15 million.

Lawmakers authorized two bonding measures to cover the Civil Service Employees Association payouts: $3.2 million for general county workers and $2.1 million for Nassau County Community College staff.

Earlier this year, lawmakers approved $5 million in borrowing to cover what they believed would be most of the takers for the incentive offer of $1,000 for each year of a worker's service.

Originally, county officials estimated the offer might entice about 150 CSEA members, but when the deadline passed in mid-September, 197 general workers and 27 college employees had been accepted to leave.

Aides to County Executive Edward Mangano said Monday that another $4.9 million to pay the retiring workers will come from operating expenses, meaning that the total cost to Nassau, including bonding for general CSEA and college employees, is roughly $15.2 million.

Of the $13 million for general CSEA members, $5 million is to pay for the actual incentive, and the remainder covers the termination pay they would have received no matter when they departed, officials said.

Mangano sought the incentive to get higher-paid workers off the payroll and replace some with new hires, who have a lower salary scale and contribute to their health care as a result of labor deals approved last spring. The administration has estimated that the CSEA early retirement incentive would save at least $6 million a year.

Chief Deputy County Executive Rob Walker said last month that the county probably would fill less than 70 percent of the openings created by the incentive. Since then, Nassau has faced reports of declining sales tax revenue that could create a shortfall of $70 million by the end of 2014.

"Realistically, I'd like to try to recoup at least 50 percent of the workers that went out," said CSEA president Jerry Laricchiuta, noting that 911 operators and deputy sheriffs had some of the most pressing needs. "But with this budget, sales tax being down and all the other economic woes, we can't seem to catch a break."

The borrowing measures were approved unanimously Monday with no discussion. The administration originally requested $5.5 million in additional bonds for the general workers, but reduced it to $3.2 million just before the meeting.

Mangano's office did not provide an explanation for the reduced request, but it came a week after the county's state fiscal control board -- the Nassau Interim Finance Authority -- released a report that said the county has continued to rely too heavily on borrowing for day-to-day operating expenses such as paying accrued time to its departed employees.

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