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Long Beach, moving away from deficits, proposes a surplus budget

Jack Schnirman, City of Long Beach Manager is

Jack Schnirman, City of Long Beach Manager is shown in a photo taken in East Farmingdale on Oct. 22, 2014. Credit: Randee Daddona

Long Beach is proposing its first surplus budget in four years after erasing an $18 million multiyear deficit.

City Manager Jack Schnirman introduced the $86,277,466 budget last week, including a $7 million reserve bringing the city back into the black. The budget increased 1.91 percent from last year.

"We've made a lot of progress to get Long Beach back on the right track," Schnirman said. "There's still plenty of work to do. I think we have to continue to implement our long-term recovery plan."

The city's proposal is the fourth consecutive balanced budget and the third straight year with a tax increase less than the state-mandated cap, set this year at 3.18 percent.

The budget calls for a 3.18 percent tax increase that will be reimbursed in full for most homeowners under the state rebate program for families making less than $500,000. The city is taking $635,000 from the general fund and $155,000 from the water fund to further reduce the tax levy by $55 per home.

Schnirman said the city restored its $7 million reserve, marking a $21 million turnaround from the deficit that was in place when the current administration took office.

The current City Council took over in December 2011 and inherited a $14.7 million deficit from the prior administration. Moody's Investment Services downgraded the city's credit rating five levels to Baa 3 and set the city on the brink of bankruptcy.

Earlier this year, Moody's upgraded the city's bond rating one level to Baa 2 and the state comptroller upgraded the city's fiscal stress level to moderate.

The city has cut its workforce by 11 percent and reduced personnel costs by 27 percent during the past four years. The city's unemployment rate has also dropped from 7 percent to 4.7 percent, which is below the Nassau County average, Schnirman said.

Officials also credited the city's financial recovery to building projects and reduced spending after superstorm Sandy. The city completed about 200 projects by in-house workers using city overtime and equipment. These projects generated $4.9 million in revenue that was used to offset operation costs, according to the budget.

In its budget proposal the city is proposing a 2 percent sewer and water usage fee increase. Councilman Anthony Eramo asked to reduce that fee during the next meeting May 19 when the City Council votes on the final budget.

The new budget goes into effect July 1.

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