The following is a look back at some of the top stories in Nassau County over the past week:
Mangano Forced to Make Heavy Budget Cuts
With a Nassau County judge upholding the decision to allow the Nassau Interim Finance Authority to impose a control period on the county's finances, County Executive Ed Mangano will be forced to make heavy cuts to the budget, reductions that will likely result in loss of services, worker layoffs, and the privatization of Long Island Bus.
“Since the last thing Nassau families need in these tough economic times is a double-digit property tax increase, I will submit a revised financial plan next week that cuts county spending by over $121 million,” Mangano said. “These cuts will affect every area of the county and the services we provide. That’s unfortunate, yet necessary in the face of NIFA’s decision to change accounting practices and create a paper deficit.”
The county executive said the cuts are an alternative to raising property taxes, which he estimated would have to increase by 21.5 percent to cover the new accounting rules imposed by NIFA. Mangano aims to reduce the county workforce by laying off some employees, not filling vacant positions, and freezing wages. This would reduce spending by $60.5 million, according to Mangano.
An additional $40 million will be slashed via contractual expenses, a "restructuring" of the police department, and privatizing both the Long Island Bus and inmate health care.
Mangano has explored privatizing the Long Island Bus system — which is owned by the county but operated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) — because the MTA reports it cannot afford to continue funding the bus service without an additional $26 million from the county, funds the cash-strapped county does not have. MTA officials reported the likely cutting of over half of Nassau bus routes if the county did not come up with the cash. The NIFA-imposed control period solidified Mangano's decision to seek privatization.
Legislative Minority Leader Diane Yatauro, D-Glen Cove, explained county Democrats have been saying Mangano should have worked to get the county's finances in order prior to NIFA stepping in.
"NIFA board members, as well as all of us in the Democratic Caucus, have been warning Mr. Mangano for months that his 2011 budget numbers were out of balance," Yatauro said. "Had his budget included responsible spending reductions and not relied so heavily on borrowing, none of this would be happening."
DA's Office Busts Mortgage Fraud Scheme
In what is being called the largest takedown of mortgage fraud in Nassau County, District Attorney Kathleen Rice this week announced four indictments — charging 17 people with a total of 108 crimes — against men and women involved in mortgage fraud and identify theft schemes.
"Mortgage fraud hurts every honest, hard-working citizen by making it more difficult for them to get good mortgage rates and destroys communities when houses fall into foreclosure and end up boarded-up or sold for less than their original value,” Rice said.
According to Rice, her office — in conduction with the New York State Banking Department — launched an investigation two years ago into suspicions that several conspirators were enlisted the help of so-called "straw buyers" to invest in homes slated for foreclosure, using their personal information. But instead of helping the homeowners stave off foreclosure, the suspects were allegedly laundering the money. Rice's office estimates that investors were bilked out of some $20 million.
Those charged include lawyers, mortgage and real estate brokers, and bankers. For more on this story, click here.
Mangano Postpones State of the County Address
Out of respect for slain Nassau County police officer Geoffrey Brietkopf, Mangano decided to postpone his State of the County Address.
The county executive was scheduled to address the public last Monday, but postponed the speech after learning that Brietkopf, 40, had been shot and killed responding to a crime scene in Massapequa Park. Police are investigating the traffic accident.
Brietkopf's funeral was held on Friday in Selden.
Mangano has not yet scheduled a new date for the address.