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Glen Cove tells state how it reduced deficit

Relinquishing its sewer system and charging for ambulances has helped Glen Cove slowly climb from its deep, long-standing financial hole.

The city last week mailed the state comptroller its long-term "Deficit Reduction Plan," a six-page letter the agency had requested. Because the city relies on deficit-financing bonds, Glen Cove submits its budget to the state for annual review.

Deputy Comptroller Steven Hancox had told the city its $46.3-million 2011 budget lacked provisions for eliminating a $5.1-million deficit. The city's Jan. 20 response cited recent efforts at reducing the deficit, including transferring Glen Cove's sewer system to the county, increasing parking fines and billing insurance carriers for ambulances.

The 2008 sewer transfer saves $4 million in annual expenses, the city reported, parking violation revenue has nearly doubled since 2005, to $465,000 a year, and a new ambulance billing system is estimated to bring $700,000 in 2011. Employee overtime has also been cut, city officials said.

"Outside of printing money, it's very hard to find any silver bullets out there," Mayor Ralph Suozzi said.

He noted that the deficit in 2006, when he took office, was $11 million higher, and overall city debt - now $66 million - is down by $5 million. Much of that debt dates to the 1980s or earlier, the mayor said.

"We have borrowed less, and created a budget built on actual revenues from prior years rather than estimates," the mayor said, citing one comptroller suggestion.

Further progress has been "diminished and overshadowed by the economic impact of the recession" - especially from reduced property tax revenue despite rate increases, according to the city's letter.

Suozzi's critics said borrowing should be further reduced. Filomena Ricciardi, a Glen Cove resident and frequent town board meeting attendee, pointed to the new ferry terminal, which is mostly funded with federal stimulus money, but also required short-term bonds.

"When you don't have the money, you don't spend it," Ricciardi said.

The comptroller's office said Wednesday that it was still reviewing Glen Cove's letter. Suozzi said he hopes to meet with them to discuss where to go from here.

"This is our game plan," he said. "We are trying."

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