Long Beach approves budget with 8.3% tax hike

Revised spending plan reduces proposed property tax increase, avoids layoffs and maintains services


Following three heated budget meetings, and amid an outcry from residents over a proposed 12.3 percent tax increase, the City Council voted unanimously to approve a revised $95 million spending plan that avoided layoffs, drastic cuts to services and lowered the tax increase to 8.3 percent after officials made a number of cuts.

The proposed budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year was floated earlier this month on the heels of a precipitous downturn in the city’s finances, and after State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office said that the city’s level of fiscal stress was “significant.”

The budget also came amid concerns that the city might not be able to make payroll by June after the council voted 3-2 to reject a $2.1 million bond measure to cover separation payments and “draw downs” of union and non-union employees’ accrued time in the 2017-18 fiscal year. The borrowing measure was rejected amid questions over whether a number of employees, including former City Manager and Nassau County Comptroller Jack Schnirman, were entitled to the payments.

Earlier this month, Acting City Manager Mike Tangney had proposed a 12.3 percent tax increase that would raise taxes on the average home in Long Beach by $400 per year to help fill a $4.5 million deficit.

The revised spending plan approved at a special meeting on Wednesday now increases taxes $274 per year.

City Councilman John Bendo noted before the vote that if the revised budget were rejected, the initial spending plan would take effect and result in a 12.3 percent tax increase.

“If the council votes it down, the budget that was submitted by the city manager goes into effect automatically,” Bendo said.

Council members released an errata sheet on Wednesday listing a number of measures to increase revenues by $526,000 while also reducing the planned tax increase by 4 percent, and cut expenditures from $1.7 million to $1.6 million, which included a reduction of non-union employees’ salaries and raises, as well as police and fire overtime. The city did not accept a number of union concessions, Council President Anthony Eramo said.

“We did come up with various cuts,” said Eramo, “about where we could squeeze every dollar from.”

“The council put in a lot of hours to get this number down,” Bendo said. “It may not be what you like, but it’s what we have to do to move the city forward.”

The Herald will update this story.