Long Beach will borrow $38 million to fund superstorm Sandy recovery projects in expectation of payments from the federal government, the City Council voted Tuesday night.
The city needs to the money to pay contractors for projects such as the rehabilitation of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center and City Hall, and disposal of Sandy debris, officials said.
The $38 million is a portion of the city's Sandy bill, which officials have said could top $200 million.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has agreed to pay 90 percent of Islandwide Sandy repairs but works on a reimbursement basis, City Manager Jack Schnirman said.
The council unanimously approved the borrowing -- $31.4 million in anticipation of FEMA funds and $6.6 million in anticipation of city water and sewer fees. The city expects to pay off the note within a year, and does not anticipate any cost to taxpayers, Schnirman said.
"FEMA doesn't give you a checkup front, pat you on the back and say 'Have a nice day,'" Schnirman said.
Long Beach Republicans have criticized the move, which they say represents excessive borrowing. A handful of residents also said Tuesday that they fear a tax burden if FEMA doesn't come through with the money.
Long Beach taxpayers can't afford the bill if the federal government doesn't reimburse the city, resident Doug O'Grady said.
"What if FEMA doesn't pay?" O'Grady asked. "If this thing goes into default in the next year, who does pay?"
The city also approved a resolution to borrow $4.9 million for a series of ongoing capital projects unrelated to Sandy recovery.
The projects include road improvements, curb replacements, bus purchases and other infrastructure investments. The resolution was downsized from an original $5.9 million proposal.