Sunday, 07 November 2010 16:45

The Nassau County Legislature Saturday night adopted its $2.6-billion county budget

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The Nassau County Legislature Saturday night adopted its $2.6-billion county budget for next year that shifts million of dollars in costs to towns and other local jurisdictions.
The 11-8 party line vote - with all Republicans voting in favor - came shortly before 10 p.m.

During the rare weekend session, Democrats proposed $54 million worth of amendments that were voted down on party lines.
It was the first budget proposed by Republican County Executive Edward Mangano, who ousted two-term Democrat Thomas Suozzi in an election last fall in which he promised to curb rising property taxes and fix the county's much-criticized property tax assessment system.

Mangano said he kept his promise on costs by submitting a budget roughly the same size as last year despite rising costs.
In the budget, Mangano is making schools and other taxing districts assume responsibility for their share of the property assessment refunds, which account for about $80 million out of $100 million in refunds in an average year.

Critics complained about the proposal at an all-day budget hearing Friday.
"I stand here once again, representing Nassau's boards of education, upon whose property taxpayers it appears you intend to off-load multi-millions of dollars of the county's lawful obligations," Mary Jo O'Hagan, vice president of the Nassau-Suffolk School Boards Association, told the legislators.

The county got permission from the state in 1938 to take over property assessments from towns, and in 1948 the county agreed that in return for that control it would be responsible for all refunds.
In Mangano's budget, school districts, fire districts, local governments and nonprofit organizations - colleges and hospitals, for example, but not churches - also will pay for sewage service for the first time.
That would bring in $38 million in revenue, Mangano said, but Democrats on the legislature dubbed it a "toilet tax," and said it was another example of Mangano shifting costs, not cutting them.
About 50 people, most of them government staffers, were in the audience as the session began shortly before 9:15 p.m., almost 90 minutes late last night.
On Friday, an overflow crowd packed the legislative chambers to its fire-code capacity of 251 during the daylong meeting.

The budget includes $9 million for the MTA to run Long Island Bus, not the $26 million demanded by the agency, which bus riders said will jeopardize the county's public transportation system.
The Republican presiding officer, Peter Schmitt of Massapequa, had indicated before the vote the Republican majority was likely to enact the budget after adding $60 million in amendments to compensate for Mangano's decision to delay seeking $60 million in union givebacks, contained in his original budget plan.

Democrats and Republicans agreed in the budget that Mangano would be able to borrow $50 million in the coming year for property tax refunds.
The county executive had originally proposed borrowing $364 million for current and backlogged refunds during the next two years.

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