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Nassau county lawmakers approve $1.6 million to reopen police  precincts

Nassau lawmakers unanimously approved Monday a revised version of County Executive Laura Curran's $3.075 billion budget for 2019 that includes money to reopen closed  police precincts in Manhasset and Levittown and sets aside millions of dollars for possible new labor deals.

Curran, a Democrat, proposed her budget in September. Last week, majority Republicans in the legislature proposed amendments, including $1.6 million for the precinct reopenings and $12.4 million in contingency for potential new agreements with the county's major unions. Their contracts expired at the end of last year.

The $1.6 million would start the process of reopening the Sixth Precinct in Manhasset and the Eighth in Levittown, which were closed in 2012 under a consolidation plan. The facilities are currently operating as policing centers.

During debate,  County Attorney Jared Kasschau told lawmakers he believed the GOP amendments, filed last week, were not properly advertised to the public.

Kasschau said the legislature failed to publish the changes to Curran's budget.

Kasschau said taxpayers should have been able to see the notices, "so they can appear before this honorable legislature and raise concerns with respect to these new additional items. To allow what this legislature is asking for at this point, would seem to me to make a mockery of what the county executive's budget is."

Kasschau said the amendments, which passed on a 19-0 vote, "would allow this legislature to essentially discard the budget that was presented and filed by the county executive, and at the eleventh hour come forth with a budget that the legislature is presenting by emergency."

Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) countered that the legislature had the authority to adopt changes under an emergency resolution.

"What the public is going to see is an administration that does not want to exercise its veto power and wants to seize upon a technicality to somehow defeat what the 19 representatives of the legislature want to do," Nicolello said.

"If she doesn't agree with anything that we're doing, have the county executive exercise a veto. That's how this works," Nicolello said.

"If you need to, you can go ahead and sue us," Nicolello told Kasschau.

Curran didn't comment Monday. Last week, she criticized majority Republicans for proposing the amendments and "reckless" spending cuts and increases. She called it "irresponsible" of lawmakers to start reopening the precincts at this time, given a countywide detective shortage.

The amendments also include funding for staff in the Office of Minority Affairs, security officers for county parks, a mental health first aid training program contract, as well as $800,000 to restore bus routes, including a Port Washington line and Saturday service.

Legislative committees on Monday also approved the Curran administration's request to borrow $100 million to start paying down a backlog of tax refunds to commercial property owners.

The borrowing, which the administration disclosed over the summer, represents a first installment in an effort to chip away at the $360 million backlog of commercial settlements. Curran has said the administration plans to request another $200 million in borrowing next year.

Committees also approved a $9.725 million settlement with Valley Stream Green Acres LLC, for three years worth of tax challenges, and $200,000 to cover expenses to mail tax impact statements to residents.

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