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Nassau social service agencies warned of cuts

Social service agencies in Nassau County have been warned of a potentially devastating cut of up $75 million in funding next year if a fiscal watchdog group does not agree with its current plans for long-term borrowing.

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano issued the warning in a Nov. 24 letter to the agencies, but Democrats said Monday that the agencies were being used as "a pawn" by Republican Mangano in his dealings with the Democratic legislature and the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, the state fiscal watchdog group.

Mangano said in the letter that NIFA may require that he have bonding authority for all property tax refunds for next year before it certifies his budget. Mangano said the agencies could avoid the cut by showing up at Monday's meeting of the county legislature in Mineola to support his request for $75 million in additional bonding, and several did.

"Our seniors, our senior services, would be cut and programs closed for our most vulnerable residents," Eileen M. Verity, director of senior services and nutrition programs for Catholic Charities, told lawmakers. She said seniors were the fastest growing segment of the county population, "and more money, not less, is needed now."

Mary Ellen Kreye, co-president of the Uniondale Community Council, and Gwen O'Shea, president of the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island, also said they were against the proposed cuts.

Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt (R-Massapequa) said Mangano had not yet forwarded the bonding resolution to the legislature. Mangano aides said it would be submitted Dec. 13.

"If NIFA insists that the bonding be put before the legislature before the end of the year then we'll decide," Schmitt said.

"If we put the bonding on and it does not pass, there is, without question, a $75 million hole in the budget," Schmitt said. "And the hole must and will be filled by these draconian and extensive budget cuts."

Schmitt said GOP lawmakers favor the added bonding. Democrats have resisted. Minority Leader Diane Yatauro said in a statement: "We will take this under consideration should it appear on a legislative calendar."

Aides to Mangano said Monday that he was asking for the additional bonding authority because NIFA identified $75 million in unfunded property tax refunds in his budget as "at risk," and he would impose the cuts to balance the budget if he did not get the bonding.

NIFA officials referred questions to NIFA chairman Ronald Stack, who did not return phone calls for comment.

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