Who does Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano think he's kidding?
Mangano is scrambling as a state monitoring board eyes a takeover of his county's finances. The board, the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, plans a key meeting tomorrow; if it believes Nassau is likely to run a budget deficit, it can act.
Things are iffy: Mangano's budget contains "ongoing structural deficits" and $158 million in risks, warns Moody's, the credit-rating agency. And NIFA declines to declare Mangano's budget balanced.
So, on Thursday, Mangano announced $23 million in new budget "cuts," including a hiring freeze meant to "save" $15 million.
The so-called "freeze" follows an early-retirement buyout program funded with $86 million that Mangano issued bonds to cover.
That temporarily cleared 500 employees off the books (though at a cost of as much as $600,000 per departee), but Mangano never ditched the payroll slots themselves. And he apparently was preparing to fill some of them with the $15 million he "froze" Thursday.
Three-card monte is more like it.
Mangano told The Post he kept the
jobs to preserve an important "managerial tool" and that he may need to
fill them again one day.
No wonder NIFA's growing impatient.
Let's face it: Nassau is a wealthy county; its taxes are among the highest in America. A revenue shortage is not Nassau's problem.
"The county raised spending to unsustainable levels during the boom years," and then used stimulus funds to spend even more, the Manhattan Institute's E.J. McMahon wrote here recently.
Sweetheart deals with labor under Mangano's predecessor, Tom Suozzi, now have Nassau hemmed in. The agreements call for wholly unaffordable compensation for county employees -- cops alone average $126,000 a year -- and no layoffs through next year.
But rather than, say, actually slice jobs once and for all, Mangano wants to preserve his options.
Rather than play hardball with the unions, he offers generous -- unnecessary -- buyouts.
It gets worse: Though he took office vowing to cut taxes amid nationwide anti-tax fervor, he's now eyeing a hike in Nassau sales taxes in 2011.
Anything to avoid real reform.
NIFA needs to make it crystal clear to Mangano that it no longer will abide such flim-flammery.
Tomorrow would be an excellent time to deliver the message.