Bond bill would help fund Long Beach recovery

Long Beach City Hall on March 28, 2013. Long Beach City Hall on March 28, 2013. Photo Credit: Tara Conry

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Long Beach city officials and state Democrats are pushing for passage of a bill that would authorize the city to issue bonds up to $12 million to plug its budget gap and recover from superstorm Sandy.

Long Beach suffered more than $200 million in damage during Sandy and is in the midst of a financial crisis -- the city ended fiscal year 2012 more than $5 million in the red, according to the city's independent annual audit.

City leaders said the bond money, which would have to be paid back over 10 years, would provide tax relief for residents who are burdened by the costs of rebuilding their homes.

Leaders in the Democratic-controlled city called on the Republican-led State Senate to pass the borrowing bill -- something they also requested last year. The borrowing bill died in the State Senate Rules Committee a year ago, prompting Long Beach Democrats to accuse Republicans of seeking retribution because Democrats in the State Assembly had opposed a measure to aid Republican-led Nassau County.

"Long Beach has been hit very hard. People don't have money to pay for any more additional taxes," Councilman Len Torres said. "We really need the State Senate's help with this."

The Senate will take up the bill on Monday, said Scott Reif, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), who represents Long Beach. The bill has been approved by the Assembly.

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"In light of the tremendous devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy, Sen. Skelos continues to believe that Long Beach must be given the tools it needs to recover," Reif said in a statement.

Assemb. Harvey Weisenberg (D-Long Beach), who sponsored the bill in the Assembly, said he is confident the bill will pass the Senate. Long Beach residents have suffered a series of tax increases over the past two years and are in need of relief, he said.

"This certainly is a time when we need all of the resources we can get," Weisenberg said.

Long Beach is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the bulk of its Sandy-related expenses, city officials have said.

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