Long Beach again asks state for deficit help

A member of the charity group Samaritan's Purse

A member of the charity group Samaritan's Purse helps homeowners on Michigan Street in Long Beach strip their houses, destroyed by superstorm Sandy. (Nov. 18, 2012) (Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara)

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Long Beach will again ask the state for permission to borrow money to help it dig out of its fiscal crisis, the city council voted on Tuesday.

The city uncovered a $10.25 million deficit in March 2012 and sought state deficit financing last year so it could borrow money and pay it back over 10 years at a low interest rate. But the bill died in a state Senate committee.

This year's request is to borrow up to $12 million to close the budget gap and pay for superstorm Sandy repairs. City officials said Tuesday that they are more confident that this year's request will find support in Albany, in part because state officials are eager for the communities hit hardest by Sandy to rebuild.


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The city council unanimously approved the borrowing request, which the state legislature must also approve.

"Given that we're all obviously recovering -- all of our homes, all of our businesses -- now is not the time to raise taxes," city manager Jack Schnirman said.

Long Beach leaders said last year that they felt Senate Republicans opposed the borrowing bill because Long Beach is a Democratic-controlled city. Democrats in the state Assembly had recently opposed a measure to aid Republican-led Nassau County, city officials said.

City officials said they expect a more bipartisan approach this year.

State Senate co-leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) said in a statement this week that the state is "looking to give local governments the tools they need to recover."

Schnirman said the borrowing potentially would allow the city to roll back tax rates after a pair of increases.

Long Beach's city council voted in September to charge residents an additional 6.6 percent tax increase to help pay down the $10.25 million deficit over three years. That move came four months after a 7.9 percent tax hike.

Assemb. Harvey Weisenberg (D-Long Beach) said he supports the borrowing and will push for the bill's passage in Albany this month.

"People have suffered dramatically because of the hurricane," Weisenberg said. "I want to get this done as soon as we can."

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