Mangano needs to tackle 2014's challenges head-on
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County labor leaders must realize that when new contracts come up, the county can no longer afford business as usual. Workers are going to have to contribute to their own health plans, and should be required to make contributions to their pensions.
Additional work rules will also have to be changed, starting with the exclusion of overtime hours from overall pensions. This should be an immediate statewide reform, as there is severe abuse. Currently, in the final years of employment, government workers drive up overtime hours in order to drive up pension payouts. The taxpayers are left footing the bill, paying the inflated pension costs, which in turn increase property taxes.
Third, Mangano must tackle the county’s broken tax assessment system. Nassau is one of only two counties in the state with a countywide system. It is estimated that over the past decade, the broken system has added $100 million in annual debt.
Mangano has frozen tax rolls at 2010 levels, and has encouraged homeowners to appeal their assessments in order to settle cases quickly. He planned to reassess county properties last year, but was delayed after Hurricane Sandy.
Currently, when commercial assessments go down or taxes are reduced because people appeal and get tax certiorari refunds, tax rates go up on everyone else. The system is broken.
Mangano has indicated that he will explore different options. He has also mentioned that he is considering turning over assessments to the county’s towns and cities, a practice that the vast majority of New York has adopted, but it is doubtful that they will agree.
Mangano has promised to hold the line on taxes, rightly believing that raising them will only force more people to leave the county. He must continue to cut county expenses and bring in additional sources of revenue. He has a proven record of getting the job done, and has cut the work force and completed a deal to renovate the Nassau Coliseum.
Let’s keep the ball rolling. I’m hopeful that the best is yet to come.
Al D’Amato, a former U.S. senator from New York, is the founder of Park Strategies LLC, a public policy and business development firm. Comments about this column? ADAmato@liherald.com.