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Tue, 30 Oct 2007

Nassau County Legislature approves 2008 budget - Newsday

Nassau County Legislature approves 2008 budget
BY SID CASSESE AND WILLIAM MURPHY
October 30, 2007
The Nassau County Legislature, voting along party lines, approved a $2.5-billion budget for 2008 yesterday after making about $2 million in changes to add funding for social programs.
"We have shifted some priorities ... to assist our residents who are most in need," Presiding Officer Judy Jacobs (D-Woodbury) said just before the 10-9 vote of approval.
All nine Republicans voted in favor of the spending changes, but then voted against the overall budget. Minority Leader Peter Schmitt (R-Massapequa) said that spending was too high and the budget was balanced on unrealistic assumptions, such as revenue from a county cigarette tax and red-light cameras, which have not gotten approval from the State Legislature.
The special legislative session finished before noon, and the legislature adjourned, with the 10 Democrats joining a news conference with County Executive Thomas Suozzi, whose administration proposed the budget.
"The Republicans created the mess in Nassau County; the Democrats cleaned it up," said Suozzi, who has touted the fact that his budget contains no increases in the county property tax.
The budget vote gave both Republicans and Democrats what they wanted in an off-year election in which all 19 legislative two-year seats are open in next week’s general elections.
Republicans can claim to be anti-tax, fiscal conservatives in a year in which their top campaign issue is a proposal to freeze property tax assessments for five years.
And Democrats can claim they have provided much-needed services for the county’s neediest residents.
Among the spending shifts made by the legislature was restoring $700,000 for community-based organizations funded by the Youth Board, and $300,000 more in new funding for them.
"This will make a big difference to a lot of kids and their parents," said Peter Boyle, the executive director of the Gateway Youth Council in Elmont. "And it will be even better if the funds are recurring, rather than one-time only."
Legis. Kevan Abrahams (D-Hempstead) later made sure to get on the record that the legislature intends for the Youth Board funds to be continuous.
The budget changes also:
Eliminated a 10-percent match for agencies supplying meals for seniors, while adding $100,000 to help eliminate a lengthy waiting list for the Meals on Wheels program.
Restored $250,000 to community-based mental health programs.
Restored about $250,000 to social service programs, such as the Domestic Violence Prevention Initiative.
Gave $100,000 to the Nassau SPCA.
Added $150,000 for two fire marshal positions, which legislators say will generate revenue to cover their cost.


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