In a political and financial showdown between Democrats and Republicans in the Nassau County Legislature, lawmakers did not pass a vote to approve $41 million in bonds to fund tax challenge settlements Monday, letting funds for nonprofit social service agencies to run out in two weeks.
County Executive Edward Mangano said in letters to youth, substance abuse and other social services agencies that he will cut off funding July 5. The $8-million funding for the groups came from red light camera revenue since 2009, but legislators repealed the earmark last month and redirected the money to the county’s general fund. If Democrats provided the three votes needed to approve the GOP-backed borrowing, funding for the organizations would be restored.
“It’s necessary to take all discretionary funds that are available in the county and put them together in a pool to pay the tax certiorari judgments,” said Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt (R-Massapequa) at the meeting.
Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said Democrats would not approve the borrowing because Mangano has not found $160 million in labor savings in the county budget, which he promised the Nassau Interim Finance Authority he would do by Feb. 1.
“If Mr. Mangano had managed the county budget, then we would not be in this position today,” Abrahams said.
Community service coalitions, youth programs and substance abuse agencies rallied outside the Theodore Roosevelt Executive and Legislative Building in Mineola before the hearing to oppose the county’s cuts and defend the targeted services. Hundreds of children, teens and parents also attended the demonstration with signs that pleaded the legislators not to make the cuts.
“We need to understand why this is not a priority for our elected officials,” said Jamie Bogenshutz, vice president of the Coalition of Nassau County Youth Service Agencies and the executive director of YES Community Counseling Center in Massapequa. “If we are forced to shut down our programs, what happens?”
“The madness needs to stop,” said Jon Johnson, whose child is part of the Gateway Youth Outreach program in Elmont. “You do not hold kids hostage and take things away from children. That is ridiculous.”
Nonprofit workers and leaders said they will continue the fight to get the funding back for youth services.
“This is just the beginning,” said Joseph Smith, a member of the Youth Service Coalition and the executive director of Long Beach Reach. “We’re not going to let this die.”