Nassau County may be looking at a substantial reduction in social services if it cannot pass a $75 million bond as part of the 2011 budget.
According to legislators, failure of the bond would require $75 million in cuts from the 2011 budget, resulting in the termination of many county services.
Eileen Verity from Catholic Charities attended Monday's meeting of the , saying that she "became very concerned for the well-being of Nassau County's oldest taxpayers and our most vulnerable citizens," some of whom could not take care of themselves. Seniors are the fastest growing population in Nassau county.
Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt, R-Massapequa, said that County Executive Ed Mangano, "assured NIFA" () that "if for any reason the bonding to pay the tax certiorari was not in place, was not granted or acted upon when the legislature considered the case, that he would take corresponding budget cuts to keep the budget in balance."
However, NIFA "may insist that the total amount of bonding" be in place by the end of 2010.
"We're not there yet," Schmitt said. The (NIFA) may take over the county finances if Nassau runs a budget deficit of 1 percent or more. Using the county's , $75 million would total just under 3 percent.
"Just about everything would be cut 100 percent because $75 is an enormous hit on the discretionary spending," Schmitt said.
Passage of a bond requires 13 legislative votes. Republicans currently hold 11 with Democrats having the remaining eight, therefore two Democrats would have to vote in favor of bond passage. If the bond does not pass, a $75 million budget hole would exist on Jan. 1.
"That hole must and will be filled by these draconian and expensive budget cuts," Schmitt said. The Legislature had passed a $50 million bond in October for Health & Human services. About half of the county's bonded indebtedness was incurred over the past 10 years to pay for tax certiorari settlements.
The $75 million amount is comprised mainly of discretionary funding, which the county executive can cut as opposed to mandated services such as police, social services, and other state mandates which must be fulfilled.
"If you cut police, for example, well you can't cut them because the overtime goes up and it's a matter of public safety," Schmitt said. The county executive is currently negotiations with municipal unions and the two sides are close to reaching a deal on labor savings. Nassau has budgeted approximately $60 million in labor savings for 2011.
"There are items in the budget that remain in what they call 'at-risk'," Schmitt said, including state initiatives which require Albany's approval, though he did not specify which ones.
"In the past, we never bonded for items that are currently not in front of us," Legis. Kevan Abrahams, D-Hempstead, said, adding that the Democrats believe there was $28 million budgeted towards tax refunds in 2011. Abrahams explained that the county once used a "paygo" system where if they had $100 million in tax certiorari settlements, $50 million came from operating budget and $50 million came from a capital budget.
"What we tried to do in the past was exhaust that $50 million and then went to borrow," he added. "What the county executive is doing now, is that he's coming to us from our earlier standpoint because we no longer have the paygo system in our operating budget." According to Abrahams, the only issues NIFA needed to be answered are the labor savings and the state initiatives.
Abrahams also mentioned red light camera fund, which was supposed to contain an amount between $18 and $12 million and possibly be as high as $38 million to help pay for the county's social programs.
"To date we're looking for where that fund was created, to date we don't have information that it was created," Legislator Dave Denenberg, D-Merrick, said.
Schmitt replied that the revenue from the red light cameras was "far below" projections due to difficulties in getting the cameras up and running. A from $50 to $75, and to increase the number of red light camera locations from 50 to 100.