Uncertainty is rampant in Nassau over cuts to youth service agencies, proposed employee layoffs and police redeployment as County Executive Edward Mangano wrestles with ways to close a $176-million budget gap without raising taxes.
By late last week:
Democrats alleged that funding to youth service agencies in their districts was reduced far more than in Republican communities. Mangano, a Republican, contends they're wrong and the list of cuts is not final.
Mangano offered a voluntary separation package to nearly 2,400 Civil Service Employee Association members to help avoid laying off 213 employees by July 1. It would pay $750 for every year of service.
The Police Benevolent Association president requested a public hearing on Mangano's plan to reorganize the police department and redeploy 142 officers, warning it could impact safety and quality of life.
"I've been here 16 years in the county," said Legis. Judy G. Jacobs (D-Woodbury). "What I hear, I don't like at all."
But Legis. Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) said people were reacting to rumors. Cuts will be fair and will not impact quality of life, she said.
Mangano announced his cost-cutting plans to satisfy a state control board on March 23 but did not give specifics. But letters went out to youth agencies on Tuesday detailing as much as 100 percent reductions, with some cuts effective April 1.
Peter Levy, president of the Coalition of Nassau County Youth Service Agencies, said the groups based their budgets "on what the county told them. Then to have it cut in the middle of the year is crazy."
Joe Smith, executive director of the Long Beach Reach social services and substance abuse program, said, "Any cuts on top of years of previous cuts and our inability to keep up with rising costs . . . is devastating."
Democratic lawmakers contend that more than 80 percent of the reductions were being made in their districts, prompting them to plan a news conference Monday. "No elementary kid is affiliated with any political party, so I don't understand why these cuts have been made along party lines," said Deputy Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Hempstead).
Mangano said that "if Kevan and the rest of the Democratic caucus . . . spent half as much time working with me as they do against me, we would not be standing here today making difficult decisions to cut funding to community programs that our residents utilize."
Chief Deputy County Executive Rob Walker said politics were not a factor. The letters to the youth agencies "were mostly an FYI" on what could happen. He acknowledged having conference calls with providers on Friday -- and previously -- to tell them the cuts wouldn't occur if the state approves Nassau's request to expand its red-light camera program.
"If it passes, all the money will be restored for the youth programs," he said.
The Republican-controlled State Senate has approved the Nassau bill, but it still must be passed in the Democratic State Assembly.
Assemb. Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove), the Assembly sponsor, said Friday he had already gotten frantic calls from the youth agencies.
"If the cuts are being employed in a discriminatory fashion, I am beyond concerned. I am outraged," he said. "I think it is fundamentally unfair and it doesn't help me in my ability to get this bill passed for the county executive to be turning the providers into lobbyists . . . The only way I can get this passed is if it actually is to save lives."