MINEOLA — The Nassau Interim Finance Authority (NIFA) proposed county budget threatens to cut CSEA union jobs that are crucial to serving county residents.
The budget would eliminate school crossing guards and privatize ambulance services to close the county’s $54 million deficit.
CSEA Nassau County Local officials are not only questioning NIFA’s budget numbers, but are noting that the proposed cuts could be potentially dangerous for Nassau County residents.
Nassau County Local President Jerry Laricchiuta said the budget report that NIFA had commissioned from an outside firm inaccurately reports that privatizing ambulance service would save the county $15 million.
“The ambulances make $8 million per year profit for the county,” said Laricchiuta. “Even the county executive and the legislature are asking why we would get rid of a department that pays for itself and earns an extra $8 million.”
That’s not to say that the ambulance division hasn’t already been affected by budget cuts. Some posts have already been eliminated, the results of which could be life threatening.
“A driver could be all the way in Merrick and now have to respond to a call in Massapequa,” said Laricchiuta. “Imagine your loved one is having a heart attack and now you have to wait 20 minutes for someone to respond to your call. Previously, it would have taken two minutes when there were more drivers.”
“It’s not our members’ fault that they can’t be there sooner,” said Laricchiuta. “They have to deal with traffic just like the rest of us.”
Fortunately for school crossing guards, the county’s finance deputy has already ruled out the possibility of cutting their jobs for fear of compromising public safety.
Still, other CSEA positions have already been greatly reduced or cut altogether.
The number of CSEA unionized employees in Nassau County has already been reduced by 20 percent over the past seven years, making it far more difficult for members to give taxpayers the level of service that they deserve.
Members are becoming increasingly overworked and stressed out.
Some are even leaving their county positions because the stress has become unbearable.
In an attempt to compromise with Nassau County officials and help the county achieve the 7 percent reduction in spending that NIFA recommended in their proposed budget plan, CSEA agreed to an early retirement incentive.
“We lost 400 of the top wage earners with that incentive,” said Laricchiuta. “The county gets tremendous savings just from replacing someone at the top step who’s been there for 30 years, and replacing them with a new hire.”
As for Nassau County residents, the cutting of union positions will greatly affect their quality of life.
“Nassau County residents already pay the highest taxes in the country, and very little of that goes to union employees,” said Laricchiuta. “Some Nassau County residents are paying $13,000 per year in taxes and they won’t be able to get a pothole in front of their house fixed or get a 911 operator on the phone during emergencies because of understaffing.”
After years of staffing cutbacks, it is clear how important it is to keep unionized positions fully staffed.
“I think the public is finally starting to see the results of anti-union sentiments,” said Laricchiuta. “Our lack of numbers is causing public workers to be unable to give the level of service that we once did and that is recognizable to the general public.”
— Wendi Bowie