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New proposed budget in Long Beach reduces property taxes

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Long Beach officials had some good news Tuesday night for taxpayers - the proposed tax rate for the new fiscal year will be 4.9 percent, down from the previous proposed 6.3 percent.

The proposed reduction is based on the city’s belief that it will be able to fully open beaches this year, bringing in an additional$ $700,000 in revenues, according to Ina Reznik, the city’s comptroller, who disclosed the new figures at a virtual city council meeting.

Reznick said that the budget was “a dynamic process” subject to change. “Our projections for beach revenue has changed,” she said.

She said city and state officials have worked with the state “to lobby for 100 percent capacity at the beaches.” One-hundred percent capacity will allow non-residents to use the beaches, Resnick said.

Dan Keefe, a spokesman for the state parks and recreation department, said in a statement that, “Based on new, updated guidance announced yesterday (Monday) by the Governor, capacity limits will be based on space available to maintain six feet of social distancing starting on May 19 in New York. As a result, parks and beaches will need to determine on a case by case basis whether their operating plans and available space for social distancing will allow for expanded capacity.”

Given such guidance, Reznik said, “We feel the 100 beach capacity is doable.” With beaches at 50 percent capacity last summer, the city lost about $1 million in revenue.

City officials said $696,000 in additional beach revenue is expected due to the adjustment of capacity restrictions.

Reznik said the new proposed rate will mean average taxes increase of about $207 per median assessed valuation, down from $283 under the previous proposal.

“This is a pretty significant drop,” said city council president John Bendo. “This is good for the taxpayers.”

The city council will vote at a meeting on May 24 whether to adopt the proposed budget. The total proposed budget is $105 million.

Long Beach faces significant financial challenges ahead. It has nearly $500 million in long-term liabilities, including $139 million in outstanding pension and benefit payments.

In addition, it faces a $131 million judgment it was ordered to pay developer Sinclair Haberman for planned oceanfront condos.

The city has hired two firms – a law firm and a financial restructuring firm – to help it achieve financial stability. The city has asked State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, a Long Beach Democrat, for help in seeking state aid to pay the $1.5 million.

City Manager Donna Gayden said talks are ongoing with Kaminsky regarding state aid.

Brian Wells, president of Long Beach’s Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, noted that the budget for the next fiscal year calls for the elimination of two detective positions, bringing the number of detectives on the force to six, from eight. Wells said the department’s narcotics team no longer exists. He said that the public should have been better informed about the changes in the department.

Police Commission Ron Walsh, who attended the virtual meeting, said the department “was hit with retirements” and that it had four detectives when he took over as commissioner in February. He said he had since added two detectives and plans to promote another officer to detective sergeant. He said other detectives have been assigned to narcotics duties.