A Nassau fiscal watchdog is questioning the savings included in County Executive Edward Mangano's plan to plug a $50-million budget hole, largely created by repealing an unpopular home heating tax.
Mangano projected he would save $22 million in payroll costs by cutting patronage jobs and vacant positions. But the county legislature's budget review office estimates the savings at $13.2 million and says Mangano's own budget staff have lowered the savings to $16 million.
Budget Review director Steve Antonio, in a report issued this week, also doubts the size of other cuts, though none approach the size of the payroll reductions.
"We point out the risks," Antonio said.
But Mangano aides said Wednesday the county executive still expects to save the full $22 million this year, not just by reducing staff, but by paying out less severance and other associated personnel costs.
"The bottom line is I promised to deliver $19.8 million in cuts and in just 75 days I delivered $49 million in taxpayer savings," Mangano said in a statement. "I am cutting the size of management in Nassau. One does not need a calculator to see the vacant offices, empty seats and slashed payroll."
Mangano transmitted his plan to the Nassau Interim Finance Authority March 5 after the state fiscal monitoring board asked him to explain how he would fill the $20-million budget hole created when he repealed the 2.5 percent payroll tax in January, effective June 1.
In that plan Mangano also warned of a $16-million loss of revenues from an unrealized cigarette tax and a $12.7-million shortfall in sales tax collections.
Although Nassau Democrats complained that Mangano's plan was incomplete, NIFA responded in a letter Wednesday that it "does identify certain risks and outlines a number of opportunities to mitigate the projected variances."
Chairman Ronald Stack also said Mangano has promised a more comprehensive update on May 1.
Legis. Wayne Wink (D-Roslyn) said, "I'm very concerned that the numbers that were provided to NIFA do not seem to hold up under scrutiny."
But Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt (R-Massapequa) was confident Mangano would achieve his savings target this year. "It's only March," he said.