Long Beach residents blast ‘deficit surcharge’

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At last week’s meeting, Councilmen John McLaughlin and Mike Fagen voted against the surcharge, and called on the council to postpone the vote in order to hold a public hearing on the issue. Some residents told city officials to “stop blaming” Skelos, while others urged them to find other ways to pay down the remainder of the deficit.

Even Skelos weighed in after the meeting in a letter to Schnirman, writing, “I continue to be troubled by your insistence on borrowing to address these problems, rather than following the state’s example of spending reductions and belt tightening. Your recent decision to bond out an additional $5.6 million dollars for capital improvements while failing to address a growing budget deficit flies in the face of logic. And that you would now try to blame me for potential tax increases brought on by your inaction is absurd.”

Schnirman, however, gave a presentation outlining the administration’s steps taken since January to correct an “inherited” deficit. He said the administration has reined in spending; reduced the number of management positions; reached concessions with its largest union that included layoffs; and cut the $10.25 million deficit by $1.2 million.

He explained that the city is already financing a large portion of the deficit through reduced spending, the initial tax increase in May and through the issuance of $5.65 million in bonds it approved earlier this month to cover the cost of retirement and separation payments over the next five years.

“All of that balances the budget going forward,” Schnirman said. “But it doesn’t do anything about the bill we inherited.”

McLaughlin said that the deficit was still only a projection, and asked Schnirman what would happen when the city’s independent auditors determine the actual deficit amount.

Schnirman explained that if the Senate approves the city’s request for deficit financing, state auditors would certify the city’s actual deficit, monitor the city’s debt and prohibit city officials from borrowing specifically for any deficit financing.

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