Speaking in Kings Point June 13, Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos called on towns and villages to do more to hold down costs and, in apparent shot at village officials, cited Kings Point as an example.
“We are one of the highest taxed counties in the country,” he said. “The county has held the line [with taxes]. I would like to see our towns and villages to do the same.”
Mentioning the Village of Kings Point by name, Maragos said, “That’s where leadership and experience shows through. Passing on the costs, anybody can do that.”
Maragos, a resident of the Village of Russell Gardens, made his comments at an event sponsored by the Village of Kings Point Civic Association at John F. Kennedy Elementary School just weeks after the civic association blasted village trustees for unanimously approving a 9.8 percent tax increase for the 2011-2012 financial year. The total budget for the 2011-12 financial year is $13.23 million.
Maragos added during his remarks that he was happy to see everyone in the audience and encouraged them to “fight back” against tax hikes.
Efforts to reach Village of Kings Point Mayor Michael Kalnick were unavailing.
Kalnick has previously said that trustees had no control over most of the increase, which he said was due to unfunded state mandates such as increased contributions to the state pension fund and binding arbitration awards. He said village costs rose 13 percent but trustees were able to cut spending to reduce the
impact on residents.
During his remarks in Kings Points, Maragos also took aim at county unions whose unwillingness to make concessions could force Nassau County to cut more jobs in 2012
Maragos said Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano had helped the county absorb cost increases without raising property taxes in 2011, But, he said, next year the county’s health care costs will rise another 13 percent, while pension contributions will rise 20 percent.
“The unions would not come back to the table and give back a single dollar,” he said. “I find it remarkable that they would prefer to pad their paychecks than save jobs.”
Mangano announced June 13 plans to fire 130 county employees for a $10.6 million savings.
“We are forced to make layoffs because the unions don’t want to make any concessions,” Margos said. “It’s crazy, but it’s the situation we’re in.”
Jerry Larricchiuta, president of CSEA Local 830, said Maragos’ comments were unfair to union and did not recognize concessions already made by county unions.
County staff negotiated more than $50 million in givebacks over the last four years and are currently operating under a salary freeze, Larricchiuta said.
“That’s unfortunate that our county comptroller would make us the villains and not realize that this county is starved for good management and revenue,” he said. “These guys don’t know how to manage anything. I wouldn’t let them manage my garage let alone my workforce.”
Larricchiuta said unions have done their share.
“They keep saying we are at the lowest workforce level since the 1950,” he said. “Our population has tripled since 1950. So you tell me, how you are going to have the same workforce with triple the population?”
Maragos said police account for more than 50 percent of the county budget, and when officers retire with more than $800,000 payouts it is “very concerning and disturbing.”
“The labor unions enjoy almost unconstitutional protections,” he said, explaining that costs are so high because union leaders are not forced to make concessions during binding arbitration.
He also said when the police contract ends in 2015, taxpayers will feel no relief because the current contract will remain in effect until a new contract is negotiated.
Some in the audience of several dozen expressed anger at high taxes, including the 9.8 percent increase in village taxes passed by Kings Point trustees.
One member of the audience questioned Maragos’ explanation of how the county was hurt by the Nassau County Interim Finance Authority, the board that took over county finances after finding a $176 million county deficit.
Maragos said NIFA forced a deficit by mandating Maragos to put $70 million in borrowed funds onto the books.
“I would avoid borrowing money,” said the man. “I have never borrowed money in 30 years. I do run a business. I know that you cannot consider borrowed money as revenue.”
Complaints about high school taxes in Great Neck were heard from two elderly residents who expressed fear that the high cost would force them out of homes in which they had intended to grow old.
“The school taxes are killing us,” said one. “When you get to 70 or 80 years old, I think it’s time to stop paying that. I don’t want to have to pay continuously for the teachers, for their pensions, and their benefits. I would like to pay for my own.”