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Glen Cove seeks bonds to pay retirement costs

Glen Cove officials have asked state lawmakers for authorization to issue bonds to cover contractual payouts for an expected onslaught of retirees.

The City Council on Tuesday voted 7-0 to adopt a home rule message -- a formal request by a local government to state legislators -- that would permit the city to take on long-term debt specifically to finance separation costs, such as accrued leave for outgoing police officers.

The enabling legislation, sponsored by Assemb. Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove) and state Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset), is necessary, city officials say, because they want to pay the debt over 10 years rather than within one or two years.

"This legislation will enable the city to continue to function without having to raise taxes astronomically," Lavine said.

The legislation does not require a set dollar amount to be bonded, Mayor Ralph Suozzi said.

Payouts for 23 police officers eligible to retire this year would cost about $7.5 million, he cited as an example. Only about 12 officers are expected to retire, costing about $3.5 million, Suozzi said.

The liability had built up over the decades, and no cash reserves are available to cover them, he said. Glen Cove's general fund deficit was about $4.74 million last year, the city controller said. The city is further limited by the economic downturn and a state tax cap, he said.

"Old liability, new territory," Suozzi said Thursday, adding that a dispatcher and employees with the public works and parks departments may also retire.

Lavine and Kathy Wilson, Marcellino's spokeswoman, said they expect the legislation will be considered before the session ends next month. "Historically, the Senate has honored these requests," Wilson said.

Similar legislation has been floated for Lynbrook and Long Beach, Lavine said, adding that he is "cautiously optimistic" about Glen Cove's legislation.

Glen Cove Councilman Anthony Gallo Jr. said Thursday he was concerned about the city's debt, but voted for the home rule message because, "There are some contractual obligations that still have to be met."

Suozzi said he had inherited about $15 million in debt when he took office in 2006, but did not intend to leave the bonds for the next mayor. "We're going to aggressively pay this down," he said.

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