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Long Beach’s proposed budget calls for 12% tax increase

Sam Pinto, a member of the Long Beach

Sam Pinto, a member of the Long Beach Professional Firefighters, addresses the City Council at City Hall in Long Beach on Tuesday. Pinto is running for the city's school board. Credit: Jessica Rotkiewicz

Long Beach City Council members are weighing what services to cut in order to reduce a 12.3 percent tax increase in next year’s proposed $95 million budget.

The proposed 2018-19 plan, which could raise taxes by $400 a year for homeowners, was presented to more than 400 residents during a heated City Council meeting Tuesday night.

Acting City Manager Michael Tangney has said the budget preserves all services the city now offers.

Tangney said nearly half the proposed budget was made up of public safety and employee salaries and benefits. Only nonunion workers, accounting for less than 1 percent of the city’s workforce, contribute to health care costs, and the city may be seeking additional union contributions, Tangney said.

Tangney said the city will no longer let department heads control their budgets.

“Management is needed now more than ever to make hard choices,” Tangney said.

The budget includes $830,000 in contractual raises and step increases after the CSEA union took a zero percent increase last year.

City officials are still seeking to close a $2.1 million gap to fund the city this fiscal year, which ends June 30.

Tangney said the city had recovered $550,000 in old bonds and cut nonessential overtime and cut all nonemergency spending that may save $400,000. The city also is not replacing the city manager, assistant or comptroller through June for a total savings of about $1.2 million, but remains $800,000 short.

City Council members failed to pass a bond resolution last month that would fund separation and accrued time to 57 employees, including 15 nonunion employees who remained on staff.

Officials said they may be forced to issue layoff notices or cut services to meet June payroll. The city has already cut weekend bus service and other routes, including Point Lookout, because of the funding gap.

CSEA president John Mooney led a walkout of union workers after blaming the defeat of the bonds on council members Anissa Moore and John Bendo.

“You cannot balance the budget on the backs of us anymore,” Mooney said.

Next year’s proposed budget, which will give the city a new infusion of tax dollars July 1, also includes borrowing and counting on the council to approve bonds for $1.8 million to cover separation payments, according to the proposed budget.

City Council members have said they have diminished their reliance on loans after borrowing $3.4 million in the 2016-17 budget; but the separation payments and accrued time would otherwise account for a 7 percent tax increase.

City Council members are expected to hold another budget hearing and vote on the budget May 15.

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