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Long Beach proposes two dozen layoffs, spending cuts

Long Beach is proposing a tax increase of

Long Beach is proposing a tax increase of 1.8% in the 2020-2021 budget. Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

Long Beach city officials have proposed a $94.7 million budget that cuts $1.8 million in salaries and raises taxes by 1.8 percent.

The proposed 2020-2021 budget eliminates 24 union and management positions and cuts city spending by $2.9 million. The city has also reduced revenue projections by $5 million to match actual projections from previous years.

The city council is also planning a vote Tuesday on borrowing $4.2 million to cover a shortfall this fiscal year, citing lost revenue during the coronavirus crisis.

The tax increase equates to an additional $142 for the average household. The increase falls within the city’s tax cap and follows two straight years of 8% hikes.

The budget must be passed before June 1. The city plans to hold budget hearings on May 5 and 19. 

“In the past few years, taxes have been risen 21 percent to balance the budget on the backs of the taxpayers,” interim City Manager Donna Gayden said. “At some point taxpayers are going to say enough. The city has to recognize to not raise property taxes over the cap. We have to look at what is being run efficiently. We need to look at the city’s business as a whole. We did what was necessary to move the city forward.”

The city laid off 142 part-time employees last month, primarily dedicated to the city’s recreation center and other services, such as the Magnolia Senior Center and child day care center. Officials said the senior center would reopen after the pandemic is over, but the future of the day care center may be in doubt as the city weighs costs and revenue.

“None of those layoffs of temporary workers were related to COVID-19,” City Council president John Bendo said. “It’s purely an operational decision based on finances. What services will be reestablished will be based on finances. Some operations are costing more than they’re bringing in in revenue and that’s not a sustainable business model.”

The city asked for concessions from the city’s three bargaining units: CSEA, police and the paid fire department. So far, city officials said the CSEA has been the only union to offer concessions and eliminate jobs. City officials did not say what jobs were cut. 

CSEA and fire officials could not be reached for comment. The Long Beach PBA said they would offer cost-saving measures during contract negotiations. 

Long Beach Police Commissioner Michael Tangney also submitted his retirement notice. The city will name an acting police commissioner and conduct a search for his replacement, Gayden said.

Officials did not know how much the layoffs would cost in separation pay. The city is planning to bond for $2.7 million in separation pay next year and budgeted $1.8 million in bonds for separation pay this year.

The city faces about $7 million in retirement costs projected in 2021 — including $3.9 million for police and fire department retirements — an amount similar to this year’s retirement costs.

"This budget is about stabilization. We can’t start climbing out of the hole if the hole keeps getting deeper," Bendo said.

Officials said they have issued conservative revenue projections to match previous years' returns and to account for the potential fallout from the pandemic. About $4 million in beach revenue is forecast in the budget proposal, officials said. The city had budgeted $5 million in beach revenue for the fiscal year that ends June 30.

“Like the rest of the world, we have to be agile and plan to react to all revenue and associated expenses,” Comptroller Inna Reznik said. 

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