Democrats on the Nassau County Legislature today voted against consolidation of department managers – a proposal by the administration which they said would eliminate duplicative services, create program efficiencies and reduce overall spending by nearly $1 million.
Chief Deputy County Executive Rob Walker, speaking before the the Legislative planning committee, said that a nearly 18 month review of similar consolidation in other counties showed that residents would be better served by these programs working together, under the same roof – minus an unnecessary layer of management.
The Legislative committee members approved the measures today, however, with affirmative votes by only the Republican majority. It is expected to be passed by the full Legislature on June 6.
Under County Executive Ed Mangano’s consolidation plan, the County’s Planning Department would merge with the Department of Public Works – a move county officials say will reduce the lengthy waiting times for permits and other approvals.
“Hopefully new businesses will want to start up here and this will make the process easier and quicker and save significant dollars,” Walker told the Lawmakers today. “The cost savings would come from eliminating an executive commissioner and two deputy commissioner positions and from selling a building since we’d be moving employees” to another location.” He said the building the planning department occupies now is in a “terrible state of disrepair.”
Mangano’s consolidation plan also includes a new Department of Human Services, created with the newly merged offices of Youth Board, Mental Health and Substance Abuse, Senior Citizen Affairs and the Office of the Physically Challenged.
Democratic Legislators Judy Jacobs, David Denenberg and Judy Bosworth voiced concerns about merging the departments, saying they thought those divisions should stand alone. And they said they were fearful that grants would be lost and services would be reduced.
Walker assured them that no employees were losing their jobs and in fact would be cross-trained to be able to help different segments of the population. He said this would eliminate redundant administrative services and provide more of a “one-stop shop” for residents seeking services. He said no grants would be lost. He said additional savings would be realized by in house employees performing work now done by outside consultants.
Walker said that the County currently spends $90 million in leases to rent space for these departments in different buildings and that putting them together in one county-owned building would make great financial sense.
And he said he expects the human services merger to save $800,000 with upper level management positions such as commissioner not being filled.
County officials said the involved department heads are “excited” about the merger.
“The Youth Board said last week that they had no one to process claims,” Walker told the Legislature. “Now, we can throw someone in to help. Cross-training is so crucial”
Walker continued: “We’re changing the bloated management system – and we welcome everyone’s input.”