Despite pleas from those most affected, the Nassau County Legislature voted 10-9 in favor of laying off 128 county workers during a special meeting Tuesday evening. County Executive Ed Mangano had proposed the layoffs to reduce the budget deficit after refusing an increase in taxes.
The layoffs—which will go into affect July 1—will save the county $10 million annually to help close a $176 million deficit identified by the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, a fiscal watchdog that took control of county finances earlier this year.
“I feel confident that all 19 of us would rather not layoff a single person, but we’ve gotten to the point today in which NIFA is holding you to a deficit that you somehow have to fill,” said Legis. Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park).
Democrats charged that the Mangano administration—not NIFA—is to blame for the layoffs.
“NIFA is here to oversee the fact that we balance a budget,” said Minority Leader Diane Yatauro (D-Glen Cove). “How we get there, they don’t care. They have identified that there is a budget situation that needs to be corrected. To turn around and blame NIFA for the layoffs is nonsense.”
The layoffs were opposed by members of the Civil Service Employee Association (CSEA) Local 830 union. Those who will get pink slips include 59 staffers from property tax assessment, 25 in parks (mainly the Old Bethpage Village Restoration), 21 from social services, 13 from the county attorney’s office and 10 from information technology.
Though the result of the vote seemed likely from the start, hundreds of CSEA members turned up at the legislature, chanting and carrying signs that read: “If you take our jobs, we’ll take yours!” and—the phrase of the day—“We’ll remember in November.”
“Is Nassau County better off now that we have these 128 souls thrown out of their jobs?” said Jerry Laricchiuta, president of the Nassau County CSEA. “No, we’re not better off. It’s an absolute crime; it’s a shame what’s happened here.”
Deputy County Executive Robert Walker said that all other avenues had been explored before the decision to layoff workers had been adopted. He believes the county took a “surgical approach” in selecting the positions to be cut.
The administration maintains that the remaining employees would pick up the slack.
“The fact of the matter is that the county executive and the CSEA president were in negotiations about concessions that would have enabled us to save the similar amount of money, and it didn’t happen,” said Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt (R-Massapequa).
But union leaders believe layoffs are the sign of “bad government.”
“I am more confident than ever that this county is doing these layoffs absolutely wrong and without any kind of real thought or study on this,” said Laricchiutta. “I’d like to see the knife they used when they were doing the surgical cuts because I think they were using a weed-wacker.”
Though workers clamored to save their jobs, the Republican majority—except Legis. Denise Ford (R-Long Beach)—voted for laying off the workers. Democrats all voted against it.
“It’s not just 128 workers,” said Diane Cola, a lifelong Nassau resident who worked for the county division of SCAR (Small Claims Assessment Review). “It’s 128 families. We are intelligent people who can be part of the solution. Don’t make us the scapegoats.”
“To all those being affected, do not feel that you are the problem,” said Ford.
Schmitt said he and the county legislature are willing to discuss the possibility of returning laid off workers to their posts at some point in the future. However, as of Friday, the 128 workers will be searching for new jobs as Mangano continues to develop methods to cut county costs.
“This is just the wrong time to be doing something like this,” said Legis. Kevan Abrahams (D-Hempstead). “It just doesn’t seem like a logical decision.”