“I understand we’re going to increase this tax, but can’t we couple that with more cost-cutting,” McLaughlin said, adding that overtime in the Police Department cost the city more than $100,000 over the summer. “That’s not cost-cutting … this is a real budget issue … a lot of people are concerned about this.”
Schnirman said that the city stepped up enforcement this summer that led to overtime costs in the Police Department, but said that overall, overtime is lower this year than last year.
Resident Karen Adamo criticized Skelos for “changing his mind” after he agreed to sponsor the bill. But resident Barbara Bernardino and others called on city officials to get "creative" and find additional savings. “There are families already struggling to make ends meet,” she said.
“Unfortunately, you passed [the budget] two days before [the bill] even went to the Senate,” added resident Roy Lester. “People look at a budget that you pass as a promise. Don’t you think the taxpayers should have more of a say?”
Former Councilman Denis Kelly said that the city is on an “unsustainable” track.
“People can’t afford to live here,” Kelly said. “You have to tackle the fixed expenses.”
Fagen argued that the budget was not yet balanced and said that blaming Skelos for the tax increase was “irresponsible.”
“Their feeling was that we didn’t get our house in order,” Fagen said. “One of the things that Senator Skelos was very clear about was that the City of Long Beach should not be trying to borrow its way out of everything. We were looking to borrow $15 million to solve a $10 million deficit. That was a very large bone of contention with the Senate. We created a budget under the assumption that we would get this financing. There hasn’t been an aggressive approach to mitigate spending to offset this tax increase.”
Fagen said that the city borrowed $5 million earlier in the year for cash-flow purposes that was to be paid through the deficit financing effort, and, along with contractual obligations and increased pension and health care costs, the city is incurring additional expenses.