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Long Beach approves budget carrying an 8.35 percent tax hike

The City of Long Beach City Hall on

The City of Long Beach City Hall on W. Chester St. in Long Beach, Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014. Credit: Steve Pfost

Long Beach City Council members unanimously approved a proposed nearly $95 million budget Wednesday night that carries an 8.35 percent tax hike for homeowners.

The five-member City Council approved the budget, reducing the original tax levy hike of 12.3 percent and lowering the average property tax increase to $276 from the proposed $400 hike.

Long Beach’s tax hike follows years of unbalanced budgets and borrowing to meet expenses.

Amendments approved by the City Council included cutting $526,000 in spending and trimming $93,000 in raises and salaries.

All management employee raises were removed, including a $25,000 raise for the city’s corporation counsel and a $50,000 secretary to labor relations salary.

The city also removed $50,000 in public works raises, $60,000 in police overtime and $126,000 in temporary employee salaries.

City Council president Anthony Eramo said Long Beach was looking to increase revenue related to the city’s sanitation schedule and may in the future propose adding parking meters.

“Collectively we’ve found there’s a balance and we want to give everyone the services they want, but we have to pay for those services,” Eramo said. “This budget maintains our services and standard of living without significant cuts.”

He said the city did not accept any union concessions in the budget.

Property taxes in the budget were reduced by $1 million.

A majority vote against the budget would have put the 12.3 percent tax increase in place with the original proposed budget.

“The council put in a lot of hours to get this number down,” Councilman John Bendo said. “It may not be what you like, but it’s what we have to do to move the city forward.”

Council members also are considering a resolution next month to require organizers to pay up front for operational costs of hosting events in the city.

The budget includes an amendment for an additional $150,000 in fee increases and foreclosure registry income to the city and $225,000 in event cost reimbursements.

City officials have said that union employee salaries and benefits account for nearly half of the budget.

The other costly departments are Long Beach Police, fire department and city-operated day care. However the budget did not include any layoffs.

Residents have criticized the city for large payouts to current and former employees, but officials said the payouts did not contribute to the tax hike.

Next year’s budget includes plans to bond for $1.8 million in retiree and separation pay.

Officials said they have closed a $2.1 million gap in this year’s budget by finding money in old bonds and rolling over borrowing until next year.

Council members also voted for a $4 million capital improvement plan for next year, with reduced spending from previous years.

“This is a sad night in the city of Long Beach. The residents have bailed out government with taxes and fees,” Councilwoman Anissa Moore said. “Tonight is a small drop in a bucket of fiscal mismanagement.”


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