News: Nassau County Still In Financial Crisis
(Long Island, N.Y.)Reports show that things are looking bad for Nassau County Executive, Edward P. Mangano, in regards to keeping the 2011 budget out of the hands of NIFA. Mangano has until Thursday, Jan. 20, to prove that the budget is balanced and without a $26 million (1%) increase in deficit. Latest news on the story has updated that success for Nassau’s current legislature is becoming more unlikely.
Mangano entered the county position amidst controversy, winning the ballot by 386 votes in an election year when less that 30% of the electorate turned out, beating the incumbent, Thomas R. Suozzi. Nassau County has an estimated two million residents, and is one of the four richest counties in the country. Many say that this means that a shortage in revenue is not the source of the county’s financial difficulties.
The question concerning the involvement of NIFA, a state-run safety net organization made in 2000 based on the NYC Financial Control Board, is double-sided. While many are welcoming a possible shift in power, putting the finances of the county into the hands of the state, many question what good the state can do amidst its own financial sagas. How sensitive will NIFA, based out of Albany, be to the needs of Long Islanders?
Some of the designs of NIFA include putting a wage-freeze on employees of the public sector and re-opening labor contracts. NIFA is equipped to give legal authority, free of political limitations, in acting speedily with the intentions of the budget no matter how unfavorable. NIFA doesn’t have the political figurehead of Mangano for the public to direct its frustrations. It offers bond-purchasers and money-lenders a greater sense of security that their loans will be repaid.
Nonetheless, Nassau faces a heap of troubles which are new to a county history that dates back longer than a century. House values are decreasing, along with retirement savings, and more big cuts and layoffs gloom into the future. The county’s credit is suffering, making it more difficult and expensive to fund county operations, which reflects back on Albany and adds to state problems.
Mangano has talked of sewing NIFA before fully fleshing out plans to reduce spending. A decade ago, the county experienced a $100 million bailout from Albany. Since then, the state has run dry. Mangano seemed like the solution to Nassau County’s troubles, being a forty-eight year old, self-made property lawyer who worked as a janitor during his high school years in order to pay for college.
Of course, Mangano can easily apply the excuse that the county was in terrible shape when he entered office, and in doing so, avert all blame. But, then again, so can Suozzi. Like his predecessor, Mangano ran on an anti-tax platform; but he has planned the 2011 budget with an anticipated increase in sales tax.
Some solutions many have proposed include cutting the expenses of the Nassau County Police Department. Police salaries have averaged over $125,000 a year with pensions reaching up to $100,000. Many feel that county employees have long been over-paid and under-worked. Cutting county workers and teacher salaries have been suggested to boost revenue. Some have suggested grouping together school districts with less than 2,500 students to cut individual expenses.
Really, the issues involved with the Nassau County 2011 budget date back ages. Many officials have promised an end to certain tax increases, only to realize it’s the most efficient way to balance a budget when spending habits aren’t curbed. It’s not so easy to cut the kind of services people are used to having and have grown dependent on. Everyone wants the services; it’s just that no one wants to pay for them.