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Long Beach City Council votes no on budget, so it will take effect by default

Acting City Manager Rob Agostisi speaks during the

Acting City Manager Rob Agostisi speaks during the special budget meeting at Long Beach City Hall on Friday. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

Long Beach City Council members voted unanimously during a special meeting Friday to defeat a $97.6 million budget that carried a 7.9 percent residential tax hike.

As a result of the failed vote, the originally proposed budget and tax hike at those figures — $97.6 million and 7.9 percent respectively — will go into effect July 1 by default.

The City Council had to vote Friday during its fourth budget hearing of the month, facing an 11:59 p.m. deadline for the 2019-2020 fiscal year. 

Councilman John Bendo said the budget did nothing for the city’s long-term recovery or address borrowing, including $1.8 million in borrowing for retirement payments. “This vote is pointless because this vote goes into effect anyway,” Bendo said. “I want to apologize. I think this City Council failed you. The five of us did not meet one time.”

The 7.9 percent tax hike is the equivalent to a $304 increase for the average homeowner.

The budget marks the second straight tax increase for residents, after the same council voted last year for an 8.3 percent tax increase. The city is expected to end 2018-2019 with a $1 million deficit after finishing 2018 with a $5.2 million deficit.

Long Beach is facing a fiscal crisis after years of unbalanced budgets and deficits that were masked by an influx of federal funding after superstorm Sandy. The city’s finances and practice of separation payments are under audit by the state comptroller.

Council members proposed an errata sheet of amendments Friday, including nearly $337,000 in cuts to the budget, which was also unanimously defeated. The cuts would have lowered the proposed residential tax increase to 7.1 percent, which would have been the equivalent of a $274 tax hike for the average homeowner.

The proposed budget cuts included $50,000 each to the city’s building and vehicle repair fund, and cutting $50,000 in recreation temporary worker salaries.

“The general priority of the budget was not to lay anyone off,” City Council president Anthony Eramo said.

Bendo and Councilman Scott Mandel had proposed a competing set of amendments, which included cuts and eliminating some city positions, but it was rejected by the remaining council members.

The default budget takes effect as outlined in the city charter. Mandel said he wanted to change the charter to default to an austerity budget if the budget didn’t pass.

Councilwoman Anissa Moore called previous reports to the city of revenue and savings “a deception.”

“This is my fourth budget. It is an embarrassing one and residents are being asked to bail out the government with tax increases and fees,” Moore said. “Many of our neighbors will be forced to move out. The people of Long Beach deserve better.”

It was defeated by City Council, so the originally proposed $97.6 million budget and 7.9% tax hike will go into effect July 1.

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