The Nassau County Legislature's Republican majority has moved to eliminate the property tax hike in GOP County Executive Edward Mangano's 2015 budget proposal -- saying it "always intended" to do so.
Lawmakers late Wednesday filed amendments to Mangano's $2.98 billion spending plan, setting up a vote by the full 19-member body Wednesday.
Leaders of both the 11-member GOP caucus and eight-member Democratic minority -- all of whom are up for re-election next fall -- have said they'd try to find a way to avoid voting for a tax hike. For Republicans, it represents the first time since Mangano took office that they have moved to significantly alter his proposed budget.
"We always intended to have a no tax increase budget," said Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow).
Mangano proposed a 3.4 percent increase to the county's combined tax levy, including the sewer district, to raise $31 million in the face of what he called a sharp, "unexplainable" dip in sales tax revenue. He has said most homeowners, who would see an average increase of 2.2 percent -- or $41 -- would be eligible for reimbursement for the cost of the increase through a state rebate program.
Businesses and households earning more than $500,000 annually wouldn't get the rebate.
It was the first time in his nearly five years in office that Mangano has sought a property tax hike.
Last year, he ran for re-election by touting that he'd frozen taxes during his first term, while relentlessly attacking his Democratic opponent, former County Executive Thomas Suozzi, for raising taxes.
Mangano has said that there were few options to avoid a tax hike for 2015. His spokesman, Brian Nevin, said last night that the administration is reviewing the amendments, and did not indicate whether Mangano would veto them.
Republicans said they would make up for the money Mangano's tax increase would have raised by reducing the "outdated contracts" budget by $12 million, recovering the value of bond premiums for $11 million in new revenue, restructuring debt to save $7 million, and having county departments more aggressively collect fees and fines to find an additional $1.2 million.
Democrats' proposed amendments replace the increased tax revenue largely by using $19 million from the county's fund balance, which is now projected at $138 million.
The minority also proposes increasing county funding for NICE Bus and for preschool special education, reducing "over-budgeted" health insurance costs and cutting outside law firm contracts.
Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said of the GOP plan: "While we look forward to reviewing their amendment to avoid the outlandish tax increase, we stand by our methods that make Nassau families and their children a priority, and bring cost-efficiency measures to our financially strapped county."