Nassau County fires 300 to help close budget gap

December 29, 2011 3:08:30 PM PST
With the new year fast approaching, hundreds of Nassau County employees received awful news Thursday.

Officials fired 300 employees as the county works to close a massive budget gap.

"There's a lot of workers in there crying it's like a funeral," food stamp worker Iesha Sang said. "Everyone's afraid."

Hundreds of employees arrived at work Thursday morning only to be escorted out as the budget axe fell just days after Christmas.

"It doesn't matter when it is," liens and recovery worker Gilda Silverman said. "It still stinks."

People with more than a decade of service to taxpayers are out the door as part of county executive Ed Mangano's plan to close a budget gap of more than $300 million and his insistence that he won't raise taxes a dime.

"We are homeowners, we are taxpayers," food stamp worker Ms. Foss said. "Raise the taxes, let everybody feel the burden, because once we lose our jobs we lose our homes. Where does that put Nassau County?"

The union has been fighting the cuts, but was mandated to find $54 million in payroll reductions.

The most heavily affected department is social services, which is losing more than 100 workers. The cuts are so deep that the wait for services Thursday was so long that people who needed assistance were told to come back Tuesday.

On Thursday, they just won't get the help they need.

"It's over 100 people," Sang said. "This is impossible. There's not enough workers that can help the people here that need the help."

Mangano says he regrets the layoffs, but that the move is necessary to close the $310 million gap.

"It's never a good time to lay people off," he said. "It's not, obviously, something we take lightly, but what's most important is that we have to balance our budget and we have to be able to operate government."

Workers say the cuts will make government less efficient.

"We're doing two, three, four times the work that we did before, with the same salary," county worker Renee Spar said. "And possibly now, with the cuts, we're doing it for less salary."

About 97 workers from 16 departments had accepted a voluntary retirement package. But county officials say that was not enough to avoid the layoffs.

The county is also eliminating about 150 vacant positions.

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