Jun 26, 2012
By Natasha Domanski
Many Nassau County non-profit organizations of are combining efforts in order to alert the public about possible public benefits the county residents would lose should the County Legislature approve funding cuts and county contracts in the coming weeks.
Agencies such as the Coalition of Nassau County Youth Services, Inc., the Coalition of Behavioral Health Providers, YES Community Counseling Center, The South Shore Child and Guidance, and the North Shore Child and Family Guidance Center received notices at the beginning of the month informing them that their contracts will be cancelled and funding eliminated to varying extents on July 6th if County Executive Edward Mangano’s fiscal recovery plan is not passed.
Tensions between Republicans and Democrats in the Nassau Legislature have been steadily rising since May as the stand-off in the between the Republican majority and Democratic minority has proved to be intractable. The Republicans want to pass a bond issue to help retire arrears in property tax refunds. This requires a super-majority in the legislature, not a simple majority. The Democrats have balked at voting for the bond issue unless the GOP legislators concurrently vote to approve nonpartisan legislative redistricting. More budget cuts will be implemented by theCountyExecutiveif the bond issue isn’t passed owing to the requirement to refund overpaid property taxes as the refund monies would come at the expense of social service allocations.
Nonprofits that depend heavily or exclusively on County funding find themselves in the middle of this budget battle.
“Our organization saves the county money by keeping many kids, opposed to the thousands, out of the ERs and out of jails,” said Andrew Malekoff, executive director of the North Shore Children andFamilyGuidanceCenter. “Twenty to 30 percent of our calls here at the center are emergencies from kids who suffer abuse, substance abuse and contemplate suicide, but if we can’t provide for them they will be ending up in facilities that cost the county and tax-payers way more money, which negates everyone’s loses in the end.”
Malekoff said their agency may lose up to $200,000 total if the county reduces their budget. A county reduction will result is a decrease of yearly state funding, as well, as the state normally matches what the county provides.
He said that they will have to release at least one full-time counselor who sees over 40 to 50 kids a day, and they would have to reduce their outpatient program that assists residents from all over Nassau from teens to young adults.
Malekoff added that their program has not seen a budget increase in 25 years, despite the massive increase of pill and general drug abuse and deaths onLong Island.
He has worked for the county since 1977, and believes that along with the recession and unemployment being higher than ever, more factors than ever are contributing to families at risk.
“You have to feel bad for the people impacted by this,” he said. “Our amount of money, overall in the budget is a small, small amount, but the people that are being helped is tremendous.”
In a press event inMineolaon Monday many of the agencies rallied to confront the legislation with what they said was not much of a response.
“It was embarrassing, disheartening and discouraging,” saidYESCommunityCounselingCenterVice President, Jamie Bogenshutz. “The brunt of the budget cuts will be our youth services,” she said. “They will be shut down.”
The YESCCC provides over 1,000NassauCountychildren a year with individual, family and group counseling as well as school programs that call out to subjects lesser discussed, like struggling with sexual and substance abuse, grief counseling, bullying, socialization and coping skills.
Bogenshutz said the budget cuts will bring on a gamut of job losses. Therapists, counselors, receptionists and the entire human service network at the organizations will lose their jobs, putting moreNassauresidents at risk for foreclosures and social issues like depression leading to crime; something that their offices would normally counsel for.
Bogenshutz said that the agencies will show up at this Monday’s Legislature meeting to propose that both parties work together for a secure financial plan, and that they cease to point fingers at one another.
Ted Levy, Nassau County Youth Board leader said he is hopeful about his team who has been working on a proposal for the Legislators.
“We are hoping that our input can help people to move ahead,” he said of the county officials. “Basically, the leadership of the county has to compromise. It can’t say, ‘It’s my way or no way’ and let people suffer.”
Levy’s organization is also set to suffer complete defunding of their social service program, should the budget cuts be passed.
Statements from theCountyExecutive’s office support the notion that both the Republicans and the Democrats are still unwilling to cooperate on the budget.
“The Democrats should do the right thing and provide the three votes necessary to avoid these draconian cuts,” Ed Mangano said about sparing the cuts.
CountySpokesmanBrian Nevin agrees with Mangano’s statement saying, “The only money being wasted is that on the salaries of these nine [Democratic] legislators who ought to be ashamed of themselves for trying to hide their political motivation with fantasy facts. Their shameful self-interest is the only thing putting these services at risk.”
Local Legislator Howard Kopel (R-Five Towns) believes the cuts are a terrible strain on the county, and if the Legislature of Nassau County is willing to work something out then it’s possible that the cuts don’t have to happen.
“It’s a matter of arithmetic, really,” Kopel said. “It’s simple calculus. The money isn’t there and the place it can come from is borrowing, which is temporary.” Kopel added that if the agencies in crisis propose a financial solution to the board that hasn’t been thought of then he would be delighted to hear it.
Legislator Francis X. Becker (R-Lynbrook) affirmed that these cuts will affect everyone in the county, agreeing with Malekoff, and that, of course, he is not interested is seeing an increase in social disruptions like more hospital visits and a spike in crime.
“It’s tragic,” Becker said of the situation. “Once again, this is caused by the Democrats not wanting to cooperate. I am stunned and shocked that it has come to this point.
He said that he believes Mangano will make the budget cuts to the youth programs a last resort, but that the old notion stands — there is no way for the county to come up with $41 million in cash.
Kevan Abrahams’ (D-Hempstead) Spokesman Mike Florio mentioned that he thinks a few lost financial causes reinstated in the past few years would help even if the county could keep open one more non-profit than the Legislature had previously thought.
“At Monday’s hearing we pointed out that in 2009 the Red Light Program was meant specifically for this situation, to ensure that a day like this never happened,” he said. “At this point the services are being treated like pawns, but if we just eliminate even the $2 million that we spend in political mailings toNassauresidents, it would cut some corners. In a time of fiscal crisis like this, those type of things should be the first thing cut, but they have not been.”
The goal of the red-light camera program was to change driver behavior while gathering revenue for the social services ofNassauCounty.
The county’s website says that studies across the country prove red-light camera programs are successful at reducing the number of red-light runners and increasing compliance with traffic laws, thus making roadways safer for all drivers and pedestrians.
“I always hope that people will come to their senses and do the right thing,” Florio said of theCountyExecutive. “Even if it is in the eleventh hour.”
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