Aug 02, 2012
By Natasha Domanski
County Executive Edward Mangano is making more cuts to the budget, this time without cutting jobs completely, and, now with the help of the Civil Service Employees Association, also known as the Local CSEA 830. Together they have approved potentially 5,000 unpaid, voluntary furloughs in order to meet the budget deficit in the upcoming year, according to Nassau County Spokesman Brian Nevin.
Union leaders are said to be supporting the plan as a means of avoiding future layoffs within the county. Local CSEA 830 Spokesman Ryan Mulholland said they’re supporting the program since it is technically a voluntary leave program, and not a required furlough, and that the details of the contract read that any department head may deny this program at any time should they feel that they do not have the resources to continue with their department if they lose more employees.
“I don’t know how many people will come forward, but we have heard from workers who say they will take a leave to benefit someone sitting in the desk next to them so they can all keep their jobs,” Mulholland said. “I’ve also heard from people that say they absolutely cannot do it because they’re already living paycheck to paycheck.”
When asked about diminishing services, Mulholland said that certain departments are very unlikely to participate like the 911 services who have already been working at times with only one operator for the entire county. “It is tricky,” he added. Law enforcement is not included in the plan.
Local CSEA 830 President Jerry Laricchiuta announced the details of the furloughs in a statement on July 27. The 5,000 employees’ options are taking one day to a maximum of 60 days off a year, with no more than 20 consecutive.
The County said that this plan is effective immediately and will be available for consideration until this time next year. Nevin stated that this is another way Mangano intends to continue to reduce labor costs and protect taxpayers through savings initiatives. He added that the County will continue to implement its plans to reduce the workforce by another 200 positions, and that the County will continue to determine which departments these cuts will take place in.
Nevin also mentioned briefly that the County is currently in court seeking the ability to furlough employees should this action be needed to balance the budget and avoid a property tax hike.
In June, the union leaders that are now complying with the job reductions asked U.S. District Court Judge Arthur Spatt for a preliminary injunction to keep Mangano from implementing a bill that would reopen labor contracts and furlough employees. A statement issued by the CSEA in mid-July argued that in terms of contract negotiating the bill, “skews all of the power in the relationship in the county’s favor.” Judge Spatt said in June that allowing for a modification of union contracts might be unconstitutional, and his ruling is expected later this month.
Just this week, County Comptroller George Maragos announced the final audited budget results for Nassau, which is staring down a potential $45 million deficit for 2012.
The 2011 budget ends with a $50.4 million deficit after an ongoing deadlock battle between Republicans and Democrats over the budget deficit from 2011 that was (and is) needed for tax rebates for the county’s residents and business owners. A fight over nonpartisan legislative redistricting added fuel to the flame, and politics have been in a stalemate mode ever since this past May.
“The deficit in 2011 was avoidable and is primarily the result of NIFA and the Legislative minority failing to work with the Administration to approve $43.1 million in bonding for property tax refunds,” Comptroller Maragos said.
He added in his statement that finances for the budget are resurfacing in certain aspects of the County’s government in order to aid in filling the deficit. The gap between recurring revenues and expenses narrowed to five percent from over 10 percent in 2009, and the report also read that the borrowing for current operating expenses was eliminated, except for extraordinary termination pay.
Mangano has had his hand in other projects, as well, to which he says the profits are all going to paying back the deficit. An initiative to sell off excess inventory rather than repair it, like the County-owned Orion Buses, formerly part of the Long Island Bus fleet, has proved to be a successful recovery method for taxpayers. Mangano’s office said the recent auction of 15 vehicles pushed the total proceeds from the sale of surplus county vehicles to $400,475. The buses, which were owned by the County, but used by the MTA when it ran Long Island Bus, have reached the end of their useful life. They were purchased by a handful of bidders, most of whom will use them for scrap.
“When I was elected County Executive I realized that car auctions had not taken place in several years and there was a surplus inventory of un-repairable vehicles wasting space throughout the County,” Mangano said. “Rather than allow these vehicles to rot, my administration has sold them for parts and raised in excess of $400,000 for taxpayers.”
Mangano has also addressed the excessive claims by pharmaceutical companies to the Medicaid program, an issue that has been looming over many New Yorkers’ heads, according to the County. The funds achieved currently amounted to a $258,561 settlement with defendant Sandoz, Inc., and are now surpassing $1 million. The issue of inflated drug prices has affected Nassau and 48 other counties in New York, Mangano said.
In addition to the bus and drug revenue, Mangano released a revised financial plan last week, which included multiple layoffs and cancellation of capital projects, departmental purchases and discretionary contracts as a way to close the shortfall.
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