Tag Archives: budget

REMINDER: City Council Meeting tonight (June 19th)

What’s on this week’s agenda? In no particular order:

  • Off-street parking waivers (Wow, they never talk about that!)
  • Amendments to the 2012/13 budget (to reflect concessions agreed upon between the City and the CSEA and voted upon by union membership, 195 to 22 in favor. This vote restored the jobs of 38 union members.)
  • Voluntary Early Retirement Incentive talk.
  • Moving the July 3rd City Council meeting to July 5th (Nobody wants to work on Fourth of July Eve)
  • Some Bond talk (City needs cash. I’m hoping for 10% short term returns. I have my fingers crossed!)
  • Bus Fares @ $2 around Long Beach, $2.50 to Point Lookout.
  • Water & Sewer rents (down the drain)
  • 727 West Park Avenue to be sold for $300,000 and will be an Irish Dance school. So Hagen School of Irish Dance is moving? SBC Blogger Seashelly wrote about this property in April: Building for Sale.
  • Something about an Automatic Alarm System.
Please read the full June 19th Agenda here:  June_19_2012.pdf

 

“Despite objections, Long Beach passes budget” [NEWSDAY], City Council Meeting Video

“Long Beach’s City Council passed an $88 million budget — and an associated tax increase — after an intense hearing Tuesday night, despite protest from residents and union members.

The city’s spending plan, designed to close a yawning budget gap, raises taxes by 7.9 percent at a time when Long Beach has grappled with a projected $10.25 million deficit.

READ THE REST AT NEWSDAY: Despite objections, Long Beach passes budget

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If you want to watch the show, the video stream is available online:


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Sorry for the somewhat lazy articles lately… been pretty busy. You have to understand that I don’t blog for a living…..

-Anthony

 

 

Should Long Beach Consider the Privatization of our Sanitation? [Rumor]

NOBODY PANIC!

This is purely a rumor, but I am hearing rumblings that Long Beach is considering the privatization of our sanitation department. You know, that vital department that picks up our garbage & recycling several times a week? It’s a service we cannot live without.

The Privatization of public departments is a big topic these days in our area. Nassau County is trying to partially privatize our sewers. The Long Island Bus, while the MTA is not exactly a public company, recently went to a private operation. Can privatizing our sanitation save the city some cash?

In the 2012/13 budget, one of the options for curing our city sanitation budget woes was the following:

Get out of the commercial sanitation business entirely. Most municipalities do not get involved in commercial carting and all commercial carting is done privately. We would realize our savings by the reduction in staffing, fuel consumption, maintenance costs, truck fleet and tipping fees. (source – 2012/13 Budget)

What do you folks think? Should the city privatize our sanitation? The other options are:

  • Increase commercial rates by 60% to make up the difference in revenue expense. Increasing these rates would close the budget gap and allow the City to provide commercial sanitation as a budget neutral service.
  • Put Commercial pick-up out to bid and set authorized vendor rates By putting commercial pick up out to bid, we could establish rates for the business community by tonnage (“pay as you throw”). The City would regulate the rates as well as the pick-up times as outlined in the bid specs. Once rates are established, businesses would have varied rates, based on their individual needs and they would pay the City monthly based on their respective bills plus an administrative cost.

VOTE! (Your Tax Dollars, Your Say)

You wouldn’t know it unless you have one or more of the [i]estimated 4000 children attending the Long Beach School District or read the local paper or The Patch that we’re having a Vote on May 15, 2012. I say this, as the lack of signage from previous elections is quite observant.

The Contenders for Board of Education on the ballot are:

1A: Stewart MININSKY

2A: Darlene TANGNEY

3A: Gina T. GUMA

4A: Write in vote

5A:  Write in vote

I learned of Mr. Stewart Mininsky’s run for School board a few months ago when he created a Facebook page  Mininsky for School Board.  Mr. Mininsky is a retiring maintenance worker at the Long Beach Schools.  He had the first lawn sign I saw sprout up a couple of weeks ago.

I wondered about the other candidates or lack of candidates as I observed no signs until last week when Darlene Tangney and Gina Guma appear to be running tag team against Mininsky.  The signs are small and unobtrusive.

Given the odds either the incumbents will win or one of them will. The question is do you care?  The Herald has endorsed the incumbents. Mininsky has cried foul on Facebook in one of his comments:

Stewart Mininsky:  Funny who would have thought that the Herald would endorse my opponents. Duh? Maybe you can contact the Herald on their web sight and ask why they canceled the endorsement interview.How can you give an endorsement without the interview so you can gather the facts and give an informed and intelligent response?

Darlene Tangney’s Facebook status has been quiet since her failed election in November against Denise Ford for County Legislator back in November of 2011. She’s held the position of school board trustee since 2009.

Gina Guma’s social media is limited to her family and friends but she’s been a Trustee for a while. (It’s her third term)

How else do we find out about the candidates?  The PTA had a meet and greet last Monday evening at the library.  I was not in attendance, but read the synopsis and the comment section that followed on The Patch http://longbeach.patch.com/articles/school-board-candidates-square-off-in-debate-ee246436

This will not sway the way I vote but it’s a quick read and I always find comments amusing and sometimes quite informative.

Also on The Ballot are two Propositions for Budgets.

Proposition 1 is for the School District.  They would like you to vote Yes/No to the estimated $122,151,564 budget.

Proposition 2 is for the LB Library Budget. They would like you to vote Yes/No to the estimated $ 3,366,868 budget.

Finally, the lone Warren E. VEGH is running for Library Board (6A).  There’s also a write in vote at 7A.

So that’s the ballot.  Will you vote?  School board budget votes usually have the lowest turnouts. Considering the barrier island’s population is estimated at close to 38,000 minus the kids. You would think we actually give a rat’s ass where the money goes, no?

In 2008, 1599 people voted Yes to the budget and 985 voted No[ii]

Last budget vote of 2010 according to the May 18, 2010 Herald the count was 1,804 votes to 1,394, residents approving the district’s $116.5 million 2010-11 budget.

It seems everyone is claiming fiscal irresponsibility in our City. Should the kids be denied programming because adults can’t add or be fiscally responsible?

That will be for you to decide.  This Tuesday, May 15, 2012.

Check the District’s website.  They really have improved it and it’s worth a look.  We’re never too old to learn. http://www.lbeach.org/

Link to LB Library and budget info: http://www.longbeachlibrary.org/

 

 


[i] http://www.newyorkschools.com/districts/long-beach-city-school-district.html

[ii] http://www.longislandschools.com/budget/

[Reader submitted] Budget Forecast Spreadsheet Comparing ’09-’10 To ’12-’13

A reader named Karen forwarded me the spreadsheet below where she compares the 2009/10 budget against what the city is forecasting for 2012/13. Since it’s just a proposed budget, it’s not 100% accurate, but Karen points out that it’s unsustainable the way it stands. As she plainly puts it, “very, very scary, right?” Of course, it’s hard to completely spell doom without knowing what the income will be, since this just shows expenses only. The city is working hard behind the scenes thinking of creative ways in bringing in more revenue, which will hopefully balance everything. Can the city do it? Only time will tell. By the looks of this spreadsheet, one thing is definitely clear: retirement is crazy!!

Please Note: The numbers are in millions. For example, Fire Protection is budgeted for $3,932,030 and not the bargin price of $3,932 that you might wish think it is.

Information is from the Proposed Annual Budget for Fiscal Year July 1st, 2012 – June 30th, 2013.

(click to enlarge or view PDF: COMPARISON- ’09-’10 TO ’12-’13)

Budget Blueprint Summary [City of Long Beach]

The City of Long Beach just released a budget blueprint summary which spells out just how they plan on balancing the city’s budget. It’s pretty self-explanatory: cuts, savings, reductions, increases; it’s all there.

Oh wait, what is that? A three year temporary tax surcharge of 11.9%? And what is this about an additional 4.1% increase on the general fund tax levy? Like the city says, these are “tough choices [that] cannot be avoided.” Personally, I blame the old guys for all this (and deep down in your hearts you know that I’m right).

Download the PDF here: blueprint-4-10-12.pdf

Fagen Tweets 4 Point Manifesto (And He’s Not Happy With City Hall)

As Election 2011 continues to heat up, Dem Councilman Mike Fagen (elected in 2009 and not up for reelection in November) has taken his gripes about the way City Hall has worked in his time there to everyone’s most despised favorite microblogging site, Twitter.

In a list of four grievances, he dubs “Key points that City does not want you to know,” he rattles off a barrage of claims and questions about the City’s current budget situation.  (Below I’ll include his tweets, and my best guess at what he was ranting about in 140 characters or less)

1-City just ran almost $3 mil in red in fiscal year that ended June 30.

I assume what he’s talking about here are the results of the FY2010/2011 audit * is the same thing he was talking about at Tuesday’s City Council Meeting when he mentioned “preliminary numbers” from the City’s comptroller’s office.  The City’s fiscal year goes from July 1 – June 30.  So the City wrapped up FY 2010/2011 on June 30th, the City has a “preliminary” number, then sends the financials out to an auditer to get analyzed.  An auditor then comes back and says “actually the City made this much, not this much… you’re (either) broke/rich.”  If Mr. Fagen’s preliminary numbers are correct, a $3 million shortfall would completely wipe out the remainder of the budget surplus that has been in place (though rapidly vanishing) for years. (*Updated based on reader email who was at Tuesday’s Council Meeting and noticed the same figure was used)

2-Water and sewers lost almost $1 mil

Here, my guess would be he’s referring to the revenues generated by the Water and Sewers departments.  Remember, those services have had their associated fees increased, so a shortfall here is really a shock if it is in fact true.

3-City has the info..won’t release any of it before the election.

This seems a bit like a non sequitur, because Mr. Fagen is the City.  Though, I would think he is referring to the “Republican” majority.  Now this just harkens back to a theme anyone that’s read this blog understands: City Hall’s very interesting idea of what transparency is.  It’s well documented that Councilman Torres has had to actually FOIL for information about the Quiksilver Pro, even though he’s an elected member of the City.  The Long Beach Herald today confirmed that Mr. Torres still hasn’t received a reply on his months-old FOIL request.  Turns out Seabythecity actually got the documents before an elected member of the city government!  You can read about it here.  Is it such a stretch to believe the City majority wouldn’t share budget data with some on the City Council?

Mr. Fagen’s claim here is that the City has received new financial data about the state of the City, but has chosen not to release it before the election because it could reflect poorly on the “Republican” majority.

4-PBA gets settled. How do we pay them the 4 years of retro pay $1.5 mil?

Mr. Fagen finishes off by talking about the long running saga of the Police Department’s contract.  They’ve been operating without a contract for years.  Once a contract is reached, a huge lump sum payment is required to be made.  Mr. Fagen above estimates that the lump sum is $1.5 million.  As I’ve repeatedly talked about the City’s precarious budget position, $1 million here or there could spell serious trouble.

Mr. Fagen punctuated his manifesto, with tweets thanking both the Long Beach Professional Fire Fighters and the Long Beach Police Benevolent Association (whose leader has sued City Hall) for their “overwhelming” endorsements of the Democrat’s ticket, i.e. Torres, Adelson, and Mandel.

Mark your calendars, Long Beach politics, already on Facebook, has finally invaded the twitter-verse.  His twitter claims, if true, would forecast an even worse financial future for Long Beach.  As reaction to his twitter rampage shakeout, I’ll update.

With three weeks left in this campaign, I’m really looking to what other fireworks come out and what other Web 2.0 outlets we’ll find the politicians ranting on.  A youtube remix from Ms. Goodman?  Mr. McLaughlin as a Tosh.O web redemptiont?  Perhaps a Google + note from Mr. Sofield Junior?  Or maybe we could get a blast of Digg comments from Mr. Torres?

Remember the debate is at the library tomorrow and it could be a real barn-burner.

Whacked Out Budget Math from the City Council Majority (How’s Your Cost of Living?)

Tonight, I was thrilled to see the October issue of the LB City Beat was hot off the presses.

The City Council President for the last four years, and City Council member of eight, Thomas Sofield Junior is quoted a number of times in the second of three articles in this issue.  It’s really worth a read.  I’m not sure if it is written by Mr. Sofield himself as there is no byline, but he is quoted throughout and there are no writers’ credits throughout this edition.

The article titled, “Sofield: City maintains a-1 Bond Rating, 0% tax increase,” is a doozy of a read.  It’s full of double-speak and incoherence, and it terrifies me that the City of Long Beach paid money to print thousands of these, and then pay postage to mail them around the City.

First off, the Moody’s stuff about bond ratings was covered during the summer here

Now for the fun with taxes: there’s this gem of contradiction from City Council President Sofield: “Our administration is proud to lessen the tax burden to our residents with no increase in taxes for the fiscal year.”

To break that down:

– Tax burden means how much a person pays in taxes.

– No increase in taxes means taxes stay the same.

Let’s solve this riddle together.  If taxes stay the same, then a person pays the same, not less.  I’m frankly baffled by this statement and have tried to make sense of it over and over.

If a cup of coffee costs 1 dollar, and Dunkin’ Donuts decides not to raise the cost of a cup of coffee, I still pay 1 dollar for my cup of coffee.  Because Dunkin’ Donuts decided not to increase the cost of a cup of coffee does not mean I somehow saved money.  Unless Mr. Sofield somehow misquoted himself or the writer left off a bunch of words, this sentence is just a contradiction at best, and misleading at worst.

And now comes the real whooper that should terrify anyone that lives, rents, or visits Long Beach:

“We are committed to reduce spending while seeking funding through alternative sources as we move forward with infrastructure and other upgrades throughout the City.”

To borrow a phrase used by this City Council President, “in this era of economic uncertainty,” reducing spending means cutting services and programs, pure and simple.  Many will say that savings can be achieved through “efficiencies,” but time and time again that assumption is proven wrong.  What’s easier – firing a few people on a bloated staff on the government pay roll, explaining why you need to can cops, closing a firehouse, or just slashing the entertainment budget, ending City support for the arts, scaling basic maintenance programs, canceling free events, and putting on hold urgent infrastructure projects that are backed-up anyway?

And to the next part of the whooper of a budget boondoggle, I love that we have a new term , “alternative sources.”  “Alternative sources” are fees on your cost of living in Long Beach, and you cannot escape them. These fees are a de facto hidden tax, even if the City Manager wants to deny that. As tax revenue have dipped in the previous years, and this majority has had a staunch opposition to raise any tax (which certainly is based in a principled and understandable stance), the only way to makeup for the shortfall has been an unwavering reliance on fees and cost of living increases.

– Sanitation fees have gone up 50%

– Water fees are up double digits

– Recreation fees went up 40% – what I’m talking about here is if you want to send your child to a Long Beach camp, or use the other services provided by the Rec Center (which was also promised to be replaced), they’ve gone up.

– Beach fees have gone up to in the last few years.  While most residents just get a family pass, when friends visit and you don’t have an extra pass to spare, do you enjoy having to fork over 12 bucks?  That used to be $10, and before that it was less – I remember the $8.50 days.

– Now this is just a guess on my part, but wasnt’t a standard parking ticket normally $25 bucks back in the good old days?  Well, just recently a friend of mine got one of those for $75.  Hiking up police fines is just another defacto tax that the residents have to endure.

And you better believe anything else that can be increased will be increased as the budget shortfalls add up.  The leader of the ruling party just promised you that with this “alternative sources” talk.  Remember all those rainy Sundays this August?  Every time it poured, that meant thousands in losses from beach revenue.  One day doesn’t matter, but a month of them mean there goes that new stretch of boardwalk.  And the way a budget works – that projected income has already been accounted for and spent, whether we actually received it or not.

What’s become the mantra of the ruling party – and seemingly their only rallying call – is that they’ve maintained a “0% tax increase.”  That’s good right?  It’s just not that simple.  And the City Council President’s article, if anything just highlights how that isn’t really honest.  Taxes are one component of cost of living, but clearly, there’s a lot more to the pie.

True statement: The majority party has not raised taxes.

Really true statement: Though taxes have not been raised, every conceivable fee for Long Beach residents has been increased.  While revenues continue to drop, the LBFD and LBPD continue to operate without a contract (meaning when a contract is met, a massive off-budget lump sum payment will have to be made), the 2012 budget required dipping into the rainy day fund to the tune of about $1 million (even with all these jacked-up fees), and promised infrastructure renovations have simply not happened  (like a true boardwalk renovation or the Rec Center overhaul).

And weren’t the final numbers on the FY2011 budget due before the election?  If revenue declines were worse than expected that budget neutral position could easily become a budget shortfall and completely change the fiscal situation this City is in.  You can take a quick look for yourself and see several points in the FY2012 budget where revenue projections had not yet come in where they were expected to (for FY2011).  If those projections from the Spring hold true, the City could be missing a whole lot of money they were literally banking on.  (To play budget analyst yourself, scroll to page “1” titled  “Revenue Summary for th 2011-2012 Fiscal Year” and compare 2010-2011 Original with YTD-6/2/2011.  Those are early indicators of budget shortfalls)

So perhaps, I’ve taken a long way to say: look past all the political rhetoric that’s pouring out of City Hall and decide for yourself if you really think your “burden” has lessen[ed]” over the last few years.

Note: Please correct any of my numbers above if you believe I’m off and if you have an additional example of what you think is a cost of living increase, let me know.

Long Beach Has Better Credit Than You (No Debt Crisis Here)

Debt Crisis?  Not in the City of Long Beach.  While the Federal Government may have just gotten a credit downgrade by Standard & Poors, one of their competitors, Moody’s has just raised The City of Long Beach’s credit rating to A1 from an A3 assigned in 2008.

Both of these ratings fall along the same part of the spectrum, meaning that Moody’s – and lending institutions – look at the City of Long Beach as being of the “upper-medium grade” debtors who are  subject to “low credit risk.”

This is a good thing, and though there are many taxes and fees that have residents pulling their hair out, the City does stand financially sound compared to much of the rest of the state – and is a rarity among the budget disasters that make up most of Nassau County

The City of Long Beach has a “below average debt burden,” and a sizable and stable residential  tax base of $5.5 billion.

Some interesting highlights:

  • The city has experienced assessed value growth of 0.4% annually over the past five years, reflecting modest development offset by successful tax appeals.
  • The city is expected to benefit in the medium term from the construction of several high- rise residential buildings currently in development (what are they talking about?).
  • Modest long term growth is expected given the availability of additional ocean front property.
  • The tax base is not dominated by any one large taxpayer and no major tax appeals are outstanding.
What’s interesting from my perspective, is the omission of the Quiksilver Pro in this report.  I’ve heard the City claim this event could bring in $1 billion across the city  (i.e. taxes, fees, parking tickets, business sales, real estate sales, all sorts of other increases in business).  With frankly such a low debt exposure – $56 million outstanding – a proposed spike in business like this could be a massive cash cow.
If you’re having trouble sleeping, or are really a budget wonk, you can read Moody’s report here.