Community service coalitions from across Long Island descended upon the steps of the Theodore Roosevelt Executive and Legislative Building in Mineola on Monday, for a rally to protest proposed funding cuts for at least 40 youth social service agencies by the county Legislature.
More than 200 activists, parents and children effected by the proposed cuts from across Nassau took part in the rally, which concluded nearly an hour before legislators failed to come to terms on an agreement to provide $8 million in funding to save the youth social service agencies from shutting down on July 5.
“We are completely outraged by what has happened,” President of the Long Island Hispanic Coalition Maria Elisa Cuadra said during the rally. “The county has de-funded more than 40 youth programs. No youth services (will remain) in the county and that is completely unacceptable.”
Funding for the more than 40 youth service agencies was previously made available through revenue from the county’s red-light cameras, said Cuadra, who is also CEO of Great Neck-based community service organization COPAY Inc.
But, Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano said more than two weeks ago that the youth service agencies would lose their funding if the county Legislature did not approve the borrowing of $41 million to pay for Nassau’s property tax refunds for 2011.
“The officials of this county who have been elected as politicians are playing games with our lives,” Youth Services Coalition President Peter Levy said during the rally. “They’re playing games with the lives of children. They’re playing games with the lives of senior citizens. They’re playing games with the lives of the most vulnerable people in this county. We cannot let that happen.”
With Republicans holding a 10-9 majority, that would mean at least three members of the Democratic caucus would have to cross party lines for any borrowing approval.
Democrats in the Legislature have previously indicated they would not support any further borrowing to pay for the property tax refunds until an agreement is made with Republicans on fair redistricting plans.
“I stand with the protestors,” Mangano said. “The Democrats should do the right thing and provide the three votes necessary to avoid these draconian cuts.”
Before Monday’s rally and county Legislature meeting, the Democratic caucus held a press conference of its own, which Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said was intended to shed light on Mangano’s mismanagement of Nassau’s finances.
Better management of funds by Mangano would not have put funding for the county’s social services in jeopardy, Abrahams said.
“The county executive has run dry on his ideas, or maybe just can’t implement some of his ideas and doesn’t have the capability or the know how to do it,” he said. “But, the bottom line is very simple. He needs to come up with the savings.”
Abrahams alleged that the Mangano administration has wasted $27 million in police overtime since opting to downsize half of Nassau’s eight police precincts, along with $2 million “politically-charged, taxpayer-funded mailings” and $300,000 on trucks used for advertising.
“The county executive controls more of the authority in this situation than we do,” Abrahams said. “We stand willing as the legislative minority to work with him.”
Nassau County Executive Spokesman Brian Nevin denied the claims that the Mangano administration is wasting too much money. He said Democrats are truly to blame for the county’s current financial issues.
“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,” Nevin said. “Their shameful self-interest is the only thing putting these services at risk.”
During the Legislature meeting later in the day, Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt (R-Massapequa) also denied the allegations that Mangano and the county’s Republican legislators are wasting time and money.
“We stand ready to put the bonding necessary on the calendar by emergency,” Schmitt said. “We’ll do it today.”
The Republican-led Rules Committee voted 4-3 on Monday to authorize the borrowing for property tax refunds, but approval by the full Legislature is still required for funds to be allocated.
A special meeting of the county Legislature will be held on Monday to provide one last opportunity for at least three members of the Democratic caucus to vote for the property tax refund borrowing before the funding cuts go into place on July 6.
Along with the community activists who rallied before the legislature’s meeting, Nassau County Police Benevolent Association President James Carver urged lawmakers to find a common ground on the borrowing. He called on each of the 19 county legislators to vote to approve the borrowing to pay for property tax refunds.
Carver said holding up the bonding for “political reasons” would be irresponsible.
“If you cut children’s services they become our responsibility at one point and that’s not good for anybody,” Carver said.