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Long Beach to suspend weekend and night bus service

Long Beach City Council President Anthony Eramo, center,

Long Beach City Council President Anthony Eramo, center, blames the fiscal crisis on council members John Bendo, left, Anissa Moore, who both voted against a bond proposal. Credit: James Escher / Audrie Tiernan

Long Beach city officials said they will begin service cuts and look at all contracts for potential layoffs as city funding runs out next month and a shutdown looms.

City Council members Tuesday night failed to pass $2.1 million in bonds for separation payments that were included in the 2017-18 budget as an additional stream of revenue to fund the city through the end of the fiscal year that ends June 30.

Instead, the city is set to run out of money by mid-May.

Long Beach’s union of 240 CSEA workers along with all other city employees are not expecting to receive paychecks after next month, CSEA President John Mooney said.

“It was a reckless vote to shut our government down. We were explained come June, we won’t meet payroll,” Mooney said. “Our workers live check to check, and the City Council basically informed us last night there won’t be checks in June.”

All weekend bus service is being suspended beginning this weekend, and all night bus service is suspended effective Thursday, said Acting City Manager Michael Tangney on Wednesday. He also said there will be no service to Point Lookout.

“Staffing levels will be dramatically altered to account for the $2.1 million deficit,” Tangney said.

“Last night’s City Council vote has left the City with dire consequences,” he said. “It is unfortunate, but based on the failure to authorize the bond, these cuts are being made with all options on the table.”

City Council members had approved the 2017-18 budget with the plan to issue bonds to reimburse the city’s general fund for separation payments that have already been spent. The bonds were passed in lieu of what would have equated to a 7 percent tax increase last year.

Council President Anthony Eramo said potentially all part-time employees could be laid off, and the city would also review contracts of police and its 17-member paid fire department.

Eramo blamed council members John Bendo and Anissa Moore, who voted Tuesday to defeat the bond measure that required four of five votes to pass.

“Long Beach is inching closer to a crisis because two members of the council are more interested in playing politics than carrying out the business they were elected to do,” Eramo said following the meeting.

Bendo said council members received a list of 58 names at 4 p.m. Monday, including a $108,000 separation payment for accrued time to former city manager Jack Schnirman during his six-year tenure with the city. He said Schnirman’s payment called all other payments into question.

“This situation wasn’t created by a single vote, but years of fiscal mismanagement. My goal is to get the city on a fiscally sustainable track for both our residents and workers,” Bendo said.

Moore said she did not have evidence that the city was heading toward a shutdown or layoffs. She said with her vote, she “intended to rebuild city government.”

“I’m calling for financial reform and I can’t confirm or deny what our fiscal situation is, because I’ve been lied to about the fiscal situation in Long Beach,” Moore said.

While saying “the city will find other options,” she also said, “I don’t know what we’re going to do.”

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