Long Beach plans to borrow for Sandy repairs

The Long Beach boardwalk remained heavily damaged 2 The Long Beach boardwalk remained heavily damaged 2 1/2 months after superstorm Sandy hit the Long Island area. (Jan. 15, 2013) Photo Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

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Long Beach plans to ask the state for permission to borrow money to help pay for superstorm Sandy repairs and close the city's budget gap.

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

This year's request is different because the city, which wants to borrow up to $12 million, intends to use part of the money to help pay for its portion of Sandy repair bills, city manager Jack Schnirman said. The city council will vote on the borrowing measure -- which must be approved by the State Legislature -- at its regular meeting Tuesday night.

"This will allow us to spread the pain over time so the residents aren't financially impacted by the storm all at once while they are hurting," Schnirman said.

Long Beach officials said last year that they felt politics derailed their request for a bailout -- it appeared Senate Republicans opposed the bill because Long Beach is a Democratic-controlled city and Democrats in the state Assembly had recently opposed a measure to aid Republican-led Nassau County, city officials said.

State Senate co-leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), who represents the city, said in a statement that "all options are on the table" for communities rebuilding from Sandy.

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"In light of the devastation that occurred as a result of Hurricane Sandy, we're looking to give local governments the tools they need to recover," Skelos said in the statement.

Assemb. Harvey Weisenberg (D-Long Beach) called on Republicans to pass the bill.

"It's bad enough that we were a target for a hurricane. We don't have to be a target for government as well," Weisenberg said.

Schnirman said an infusion of borrowed money could allow the city to provide tax relief to residents who have been hit hard by tax hikes.

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

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