Written by Legislator Richard Nicolello Friday, 11 November 2011 00:00
For the second consecutive year I have voted for a no-tax-increase budget for Nassau County. The 2012 Budget, which passed 11-8 along party lines, decreases spending from the previous year. This is the first time in anyone’s memory that the county budget contains less spending from the prior year.
The 2012 Budget resulted from a cooperative effort between County Executive Mangano, the Nassau Interim Finance Authority and the Legislative Majority. Nassau faced a $310 million deficit for 2012 due to a $115 million increase in pension and healthcare costs, unfunded state mandates, reduced sales tax revenue and a backlog of tax certiorari refunds.
We have achieved savings in a number of areas through across-the-board cuts in expenses and contracts, consolidation of departments, reduction in administrative positions, etc. Much of the projected savings is in the area of labor costs. In fact, labor costs are by far the largest area of the budget over which the county has discretion.
The budget includes $150 million in labor savings. The county’s labor unions are being urged to offer concessions to offset the staggering healthcare and pension increases. Without concessions the county will be forced to achieve the $150 million in labor savings by alternate means, including layoffs, furloughs and other actions. Layoffs of county workers would be an extremely painful measure, but we cannot further burden taxpayers who are struggling with the highest taxes in the country.
Nassau’s budget crisis took years to create and is by no means over. Make no mistake about it, the 2012 Budget will require the county executive to aggressively manage the county’s finances. However, it sets out a realistic plan for dealing with the severe problems facing the county without impacting county taxpayers.
We are continuing the work we started last year to provide for the long-term fiscal solvency of the county. We are making the tough decisions that previous county leaders failed to make. The changes in county government are fiercely opposed by various interested parties. They will, however, serve the interests of the residents we serve.
The legislature still has much work to do in 2011, including consideration of a private contractor to run LI Bus, the proposed consolidation of precincts, and new rules to continue the reform of Nassau’s assessment system.
As always, feel free to contact me with any thoughts and ideas you have for the county or any particular issue where I may be of assistance. My telephone number is 571-6209.