Curran accepts some, not all, budget changes

Tom McCarthy
County Executive Laura Curran submitted a budget message to the county legislature Thursday asking to incorporate amendments in the 2020 budget to fund changes that her office said will ensure safe implementation of the criminal justice reforms like the ones approved by New York state earlier this year. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran submitted a $3.11 billion 2020 county budget  Thursday that included some but not all changes requested by the Republican majority in the Legislature.

Curran said the changes she approved will help ensure the implementation of criminal justice reforms approved by New York State earlier this year.

These reforms called for the county to implement a cashless bail system and an open evidence discovery process in the pre-trial period.

Curran’s office said these budget amendments will provide $890,000 to support crime victim’s advocacy while increasing funding for the district attorney’s office and the Department of Probation by $2.8 million to help manage new responsibilities and procedures resulting from these reforms.

“I’ve worked closely with our law enforcement to provide the resources needed to comply with new obligations, and to ensure victims and witnesses of crimes are fully protected under the new system,” she said

Nassau County Legislator Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park), the presiding officer of the Legislature, said more changes are needed to deal with cashless bail and will hold an override vote on amendments that Curran did not approve in the legislature.

For an override vote to be successful, 13 votes are needed. The GOP only has an 11-8 advantage.

Nicolello said Curran has rejected a number of items proposed by the GOP majority. They include additional Department of Public Works positions, additional fire marshall positions, an increase in the number of police medics, restoring positions in the Department of Health and Consumer Affairs and training police patrol officers to use weapons so that they are prepared to deal with active shooter situations.

Curran said these cuts will save about $315,000 in next year’s budget.

“I am pleased that the County Executive has accepted our amendments intended to mitigate the effects of the State’s cashless bail ‘reforms,’” Nicolello said

“Unfortunately,” he continued, “the County Executive vetoed common-sense measures that would have provided our patrol officers with needed resources to deal with active shooters, provide real enforcement of under-age vaping and smoking, improve county roads and parks, and reduce delays on opening news small businesses and the jobs they create, all without putting an additional burden on taxpayers.”

Curran said her budget was driven by safety concerns.

“My number one priority as County Executive is keeping our residents safe. That’s why as New York state implements new criminal justice procedures, Nassau County will take a proactive approach towards safe and orderly management of these reforms,” Curran said

Nicolello commended the creation of an office of the crime victim advocate, which the 2020 budget allots a budget for an executive director, deputies, officers, and employees.

He also commended increasing the budget at the District Attorney’s Office as he said this will help mitigate the effects of cashless bail reforms.

Curran said she has vetoed additional spending amendments passed by the Legislature, but said it is made clear that her administration plans to discuss additional department needs going into the 2020 fiscal year.

Curran said her administration is working directly with the county fire commission, Nassau police, and CSEA to ensure appropriate funding and staffing for police medics. There will also be an “enhanced deployment” plan for Nassau police with SWAT rifles, Curran’s office said.

Last month, Curran released her 2020 budget plan, which she said includes no property tax increase for the second year in a row. The budget includes investments in the modernization of county operations, improvements to housing, sustainability and transportation, and efforts to save taxpayer dollars through increased collaboration with towns and villages, Curran’s office said

“It is my priority for the government to do more with less. We continue to operate under a NIFA control period. That’s why I am committed to exercising spending discipline while ensuring residents continue to receive the efficient and high-quality services they deserve,” Curran said. “This is my second no property-tax increase budget, and I will continue to protect Nassau County taxpayers by holding down spending levels.”

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