Long Beach City Council members unanimously approved a $93.6 million budget during a special meeting Monday night, which carries a 4.9% tax increase set to go into effect in July.
The new property taxes will result in a $207 increase for the average homeowner's annual tax bill, city officials said. The original proposed tax increase was reduced by about $76, or 1.4% due to an additional $696,000 in forecast beach revenue, officials added.
Commercial taxes also were raised by about 12%. The city voted to pierce the state-mandated 1.23% property tax cap last month.
Officials forecast the additional $696,000 in beach revenue based on increased beach capacity and lifting restrictions set under state pandemic guidelines. The city is forecasting to collect about $4.9 million in beach revenue from July 1 through June 30, 2022. The city forecast $3.9 million in last year’s budget through June, under last year’s COVID-19 restrictions of 50% capacity.
"It allowed the city to not increases taxes as much as we had a necessity for," said Long Beach Comptroller Inna Reznik.
The new budget adds an additional paramedic at $48,000, to give the city’s paid fire department a total of 10 paramedics.
Changes to the budget also add a youth and family services program specialist and restore a previously laid off license clerk at the city recreation center. The city also plans to save $150,000 in New York state unemployment taxes, which are suspended during the pandemic.
The state comptroller’s office criticized the city’s budget for using "one shot" revenues to balance the budget, calling it structurally unbalanced for things such as borrowing $3.1 million to cover employee separation pay and vacation payouts.
City officials said Long Beach cannot afford to budget for separation pay due to nearly a decade of unbalanced budgets and borrowing. Long Beach is also using $1 million in city reserves to balance the budget and plans to use $3.6 million in federal COVID-19 aid to repay a $4.3 million bond to cover last year's payroll.
The budget does not include $1.5 million the city is counting on receiving in state aid to hire a team of restructuring attorneys and financial advisers to handle $128 million in bonded debt and more than $350 million in other owed obligations and liabilities, including pension costs. The budget also does not address a $140 million judgment the city was ordered to pay in a 20-year dispute for an oceanfront condo development.