The Nassau Legislature Monday night approved County Executive Laura Curran's $3.11 billion 2020 budget but injected $5.8 million in tweaks — including money for an office to aid crime victims and positions in the district attorney's office as well as the county probation, public works and health departments.
The budget, with the Republican-authored amendments, passed the legislature by a vote of 17-2. Only two Republican legislators — Steve Rhoads of Bellmore and C. William Gaylor III of Lynbrook — voted no.
The changes do not add to the budget's overall size; instead, Republican lawmakers proposed $5.8 million in cuts to what Curran proposed for the budgets of the county attorney and Department of Information Technology. Lawmakers cut $4 million from the county Information Technology Department budget, including $745,000 for postage services.
Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) said the boost in staffing for a new Office of Crime Victims Advocate was "partially in response to the recent criminal justice reform passed by the state."
Nicolello noted expected demands on prosecutors and probation departments under the package of state criminal justice reform bills to take effect next year, including tighter timelines for turning over evidence to defendants' lawyers for discovery.
"This reform will place extraordinary demands on our law enforcement, our police, our DA, corrections, probation and so on," he said. "We believe that these expenditures are only the beginning of what this county and other counties in the state will have to absorb."
Curran has 10 days to veto the budget, or the changes are accepted. Then, the Nassau Interim Finance Authority will review the budget and can order the legislature to make further changes.
After the vote, Curran issued a statement appearing to take credit for funding Republican-authored amendments. Her office announced a "budget agreement reached with the Minority Caucus," but her statement only mentioned support for two of the Republican amendments: $890,000 in legal services and assistance to crime victims and witnesses, and $2.8 million to boost the budgets of the district attorney's office and the probation department.
Asked if Curran would veto the other measures, Mike Santeramo, deputy county executive for government relations and communications, said she will review them and make a decision.
Last year, Curran vetoed Republican amendments to her budget proposal, including a contingency fund for raises to labor unions and money to merge police precincts. Curran promised to merge the precincts using existing funds, and Democratic lawmakers voted to uphold her veto. Thirteen lawmakers are required to sustain a veto, and Republicans hold an 11-8 majority.
Early voting for legislative elections is underway, and the general election is Nov. 5.
Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said Monday, "We plan to support the amendments that are before us in their entirety." He also said, "We want to make sure that the things that are being reduced, that the county executive feels that she can do within those budgets, but the most important thing that pertains to this budget and the reason why we are supporting these items in particular today are tied to the public safety items."
Curran said in a statement that her top "priority as County Executive is keeping our residents safe. That’s why as New York State implements new criminal justice procedures, Nassau County will take a proactive approach toward a safe and orderly management of these reforms. I’ve worked closely with our law enforcement to provide the resources needed to comply with new obligations, and to ensure victims and witnesses of crimes are fully protected under the new system."
Rhoads and Gaylor did not address their votes but issued statements after the meeting.
Gaylor said in a statement that he is "not comfortable with the revenue numbers in the sewer fund."
Rhoads said in a statement, "Unfortunately, the budget is an up-or-down vote and I'm not comfortable with a few portions of the budget, most significantly the administration's lack of clarity regarding sewer funding and performance."
The Nassau County Legislature's proposed spending increases, and cuts, to County Executive Laura Curran's $3.11 billion budget for 2020.
- Restores 20 positions to the Nassau County District Attorney and Probation Department offices, boosting their budgets by $2.795 million
- Establishes the Office of Crime Victims Advocate to assist victims and witnesses of crimes with legal help, with a budget for $890,000
- Adds 13 positions and restores overtime funding for the Department of Public Works, boosting the department budget by $650,000
- Restores 8 eliminated positions to county Health Department, adding $320,000
- Adds 5 staffers to the Department of Consumer Affairs to enforce a proposed flavored vape products ban and enforcement the age limit for tobacco products, $239,629
- Five more fire marshal positions, $400,000
- An additional employee for the Human Rights Commission, $60,000
- Veterans Service Agency, $20,000
- Adds 5 police medics, $324,000
- Training patrol officers to use M400 Sig Sauer SWAT rifles $150,000
- County Attorney's office, $602,738
- Housing and Intergovernmental Affairs, $184,000
- Information and Technology Department, $4,000,000
- County Treasurer's Office, $102,000
- Office of Management and Budget, $318,500
- Social Services Department, $641,391
Source: Legislation filed by Majority Republican county legislators