Nassau County Democratic Legislators called a press conference late Monday morning at the County Legislative building to express their concerns over County Executive Ed Mangano's budget. "It is a blueprint for disaster," minority leader Diane Yatauro, D-Glen Cove, said.
Despite the Mangano budget touting no property tax increases, Democrats say the proposal has over $60 million in fee increases, and is full of "pie in the sky initiatives" which require state approval such as the proposed . "Experience has shown us that the majority of his requests will not be approved," Yatauro said, referring to Mangano.
"The County Executive promised the people of Nassau County less debt, less spending, and no taxes," Legislator Robert Troiano, D-Westbury said. "Instead what we've gotten is more spending, more debt, more fees and more money out of our pocket." Troiano estimated that if certiorari settlements were to be shifted to the local municipalities, it would cost another million for the area of Hempstead he represents.
"The taxpayers will still be paying the same taxes, but now it will just be associated with someone else's budget," said Judi Bosworth, D-Great Neck, referring to the proposed assessment shift, calling it an "abdication of responsibility" by the County.
In addition to asking for $60 million in labor concessions, the budget relies heavily on borrowing, approximately half a billion dollars by Democrat estimates. The Nassau Interim Finance Authority (NIFA) recently issued a report criticizing the county for continuing to borrow and for a ballooning deficit. "NIFA... is now in the process of hiring a legal team so it may review its authority," Yatauro said, adding that the move may signal a state takeover of County finances.
Legislator Dave Denenberg, D-Merrick, said the 2011 fiscal budget was misnamed "because it will break the backs of the taxpayers," rather than offer relief, while Yatauro called it a "B.S. budget" for borrow and spend.
"This is how Mr. Mangano intends to pay off his borrowing," Yatauro said pointing to a mocked-up credit card with Mangano's photo on the front. "It will take my grandchildren's generation to pay it off."
With approximately $343 million in borrowing in the budget, the interest would come to over half a billion. "That's a record in Nassau County even in the Gulotta era," Denenberg said. "We're out-Gulottaing Gulotta."
"The one thing that you don't want to see is anything that will compromise the safety of our residents," Bosworth said, referring to a proposal to mere the second and sixth police districts, but noting that no such proposal existed in the current budget for such a merger.
Legislator Wayne Wink, D-Roslyn, spoke about an additional $25 million being projected for more red light cameras around the county. A June report for 50 additional camera location has reportedly not been filed with the state as to what intersections are selected for having a camera installed. "It's a budget by litigation, it's a budget that anticipates litigation, it's a budget that calls for an elimination of the County guarantee, which quite frankly will draw litigation."
In a statement released Wednesday, Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos recommended the amount of borrowing in the proposed budget be reduced by 63 percent to $135 million to pay for only the 2010 and 2011 property tax refunds.
"Borrowing is one of the main reasons the county is in the distressed financial state that it is in," Maragos said. "Some borrowing is necessary but our recommendation would limit borrowing to the minimum necessary."
Overall, though, Maragos, a Republican, praised the Mangano budget.
"The Mangano administration delivered a balanced budget overcoming an inherited $214 million budget deficit from the prior administration, while repealing the regressive 2.5 percent energy tax and the planned property tax increase of 3.9 percent," he said. "County Executive Mangano deserves credit for making the tough and innovative choices for the benefit of our hard pressed taxpayers."
Requests for comment from Mangano's office were not immediately returned.