In a surprise move, Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano announced on Tuesday that he will drop his lawsuit against Nassau County Interim Finance Authority, the board that took control of county finances after concluding that the county had a $176 million deficit in its 2011 budget.
"The County Executive and I have had conversations with [NIFA] Chairman Stack which we hope portend a productive and mutually cooperative effort on behalf of Nassau County," County Attorney John Ciampoli said in a statement. "Earlier today I had a very promising discussion with NIFA's counsel regarding review and administration of contracts. We have already begun to mobilize staff to get the job done."
NIFA's board voted in January to impose financial controls after determining that the 2011 budget had a deficit that under the law required them to assume control. Mangano said the county budget was in balance, and filed suit to block the takeover.
"We felt strongly that this administration should have the same rules applied to it as were applied to its predecessor," Ciampoli said. "We advanced a case, based upon the law, that would have allowed Nassau County's Elected Government to do the job they were elected to do, and we asked the Court to recognize the fact that under ordinary accounting rules and past practices, the budget was balanced and Nassau's recovery from failed past policies was under way. Unfortunately, Justice Diamond did not agree."
Ciampoli said Mangano is working hard to address Nassau County's problems, which exist as a result of court decisions and the actions of his predecessors.
"The County Executive is aggressively and tirelessly working to address the problems of Nassau County under the circumstances that exist as a result of the Court's decision, and the problems that he inherited. It is my sincere hope that our former adversaries are as committed to the people of Nassau County as this administration is, and that we will be able to work together to correct the errors of the past and to meet the challenges ahead," according to the statement.
Democratic legislators had been calling on Mangano to drop the lawsuit and work with NIFA.
In the wake of Mangano's $181 million plan to reduce the deficit identified by NIFA, local legislators sounded off.
On behalf of the Nassau County Democratic Caucus, Minority Leader Diane Yatauro (D-Glen Cove) called on Mangano to eliminate non-essential patronage positions across the county and associated fringe benefits, vacant positions which pad the budget, the county executive's $2.5 million mail budget, $2 million in outside legal contracts, all non-emergency take-home vehicles, and reduce general expenses in the office of constituent affairs and the budget contingency.
"We Democrats unanimously opposed Mr. Mangano's original 2011 budget," Yatauro said. "He used unrealistic numbers and unreliable revenue sources to persuade our taxpayers that the county's economic condition was rosy. He knew then that officials from the Nassau Interim Finance Authority had grave doubts about the soundness of the county's financial outlook. Unfazed, the county executive continued to spend money on hirings, retaining politically connected law firms at a costly rate, and unleashing a torrent of political mail at taxpayer expense to convince residents that he was properly managing our finances."
In the face of budget cuts, county employees will face a "considerable challenge" in fulfilling their core mission, said Nassau County Legislator Wayne Wink (D-Roslyn).
On Wink's list of concerns is the possible merger of the 6th police precinct with the 2nd police precinct. The 6th precinct stretches from Great Neck through East Hills, while the 2nd precinct covers Hicksville, Plainville and reaches north into Levittown and Bayville.
Wink said Mangano proposed consolidating precincts last summer without substantiating resulting savings, and the entire 6th precinct area should be concerned about the effect of boundaries that stretch from Queens through Suffolk.
"I find it troublesome that I am again hearing that part of the plan is closing a police precinct," said Nassau County Legislator Judi Bosworth (D-Great Neck). "I'm concerned that it's the 6th. If it is, I would have to know what the rationale is, what the details are, how it might affect public safety, but not having information makes it difficult."
Bosworth said most of her information is coming from reports in the media.
"At this time we need to work together to identify the problems and identify solutions," she said. "This is certainly something that we have to take very seriously."
Budget cuts will "cause a lot of pain," said Nassau County Legislator Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park).
"There's a lot of people out there suffering hardships already," Nicolello said. "We really have no alternatives. We have to make cuts. No one is unconcerned about the effect these cuts are going to have. There is going to be a decrease in services. The key is to do this in as intelligent a way as possible so as to minimize the harm on services."