One Of The Nation’s Richest Counties Calls For 7% Pay Cut
Friday, February 06, 2009
From Newsday, February 2
NASSAU COUNTY, NY – County Executive Thomas Suozzi said Monday "things are as bad as they can be" financially for Nassau and he threatened to lay off almost 1,000 workers, or 10 percent of the county workforce to help balance the budget.
But unions showed no signs of agreeing to a 7 percent across-the-board pay cut that Suozzi had offered to avoid layoffs and help close a budget gap of $130 million this year. The gap could go, he said, as high as $150 million..
"Anything we would help the county out with, when things are better we would want back," Jerry Laricchiuta, president of CSEA Local 830, said after hearing Suozzi outline his budget proposal before a special session of the Nassau County Legislature.
CSEA, the largest county union, is in the first year of an eight-year contract that had a wage freeze for 2008 and an average pay raise of 3.5 percent a year for the next seven years.
A provision of that contract allows it to be reopened if there is a threat of layoffs, but Laricchiuta said he would not seek to reopen the talks.
Mike Adams, the president of the Nassau County Sheriff Officers Association, said laying off correction officers would be counterproductive because other officers would have to be put on overtime to cover mandated posts.
"I don't believe it really saves them any money. The new recruits at the lower salary would in fact help them save money," Adams said. The head of the Police Benevolent Association, Jim Carver, called the threat of police layoffs "irresponsible."
The executive director of the Office of Legislative Budget Review, Eric Naughton, said all parties need to work toward a common solution, but he took a jab at Suozzi's budget practices for the past seven years.
"If the administration had chosen not to reduce the reserves during the good times, the county would be in a much better position to get through these tough economic times," Naughton said.
The economic problems besetting the county have not trickled down to the governments of its three towns - Hempstead, North Hempstead and Oyster Bay - which said Monday they did not anticipate layoffs or cuts in pay, or any cuts to town services.
Legis. Roger Corbin (D-Westbury) noted that towns and other taxing districts have lower costs because the county picks up their share of the $50 million to $100 million in property refunds it makes annually.
"The county would not be in these dire straits if everybody paid their fair share. Instead, we've had to borrow billions over the years for these refunds," Corbin said.
Laricchiuta agreed, saying, "I don't know why that's being avoided. That needs to be fixed immediately."