In March, the city submitted a home rule request to the State Legislature to issue the bonds. Sandy caused an estimated $200 million in damage in Long Beach, and though the Federal Emergency Management Agency is expected to cover 90 percent of storm-related costs, the rest is usually split between the state and the municipality, potentially leaving Long Beach with a $10 million tab.
“Allowing the city to issue bonds would shift much of the burden off local taxpayers,” Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg, who sponsored the Assembly bill, said in a statement.
City officials have pushed for the measure for more than a year, after uncovering what was initially a projected $10.25 million deficit for fiscal 2011-12. In May 2012, the City Council voted to submit a home rule request to the State Legislature seeking approval to issue the bonds.
A 10-year payment plan, which included a 7.9 percent tax increase, was incorporated into the budget last year, after city officials said they were given assurances that the legislation would pass. It passed in the Assembly, but Skelos and others in the Republican-led Senate opted not to approve requests for such borrowing, saying that municipalities should focus more on cutting costs.
City officials were forced to amend the budget shortly afterward, adding a 6.6 percent deficit-reduction surcharge for three years and bringing the total tax increase last year to 14.5 percent. After Sandy, however, Skelos and his colleagues agreed to revisit the legislation.
The bill’s passage means that the city can now spread its payments out over 10 years.
“This is good news for Long Beach taxpayers as we all recover from Superstorm Sandy,” City Council President Scott Mandel said in a statement. “This will provide relief both for our fiscal and physical recovery. We thank Senator Skelos and Assemblyman Weisenberg for their leadership, and we look forward to working with the governor’s office and the state comptroller’s office as this process moves forward.”
But Councilman John McLaughlin said that the legislation is a year late, and added at Tuesday’s council meeting, “It would be like saying, I have a 2010 Volvo and I’m just about to pay it off.”