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Reading Between the Lines: How This Year's Proposed Budgets Will Impact Long Beach Beautification

How exactly does spending in the fiscal year impact Long Beach beautification? A perusal of the 2012/2013 proposed city budget brought up a few questions...

On a rainy Sunday, just for “fun,” I decided to flip through the 202-page proposed budget for the fiscal year 2012/2013 for the City of Long Beach. Mostly I wanted to find out the available funds for the stepped up sanitation proposals WEBA has been pushing and for the City’s planting protocol.

Now my husband is a CPA but my eyes glaze over when there’s more than 5 numbers on a page. There were a few things that caught my eye though; and it sheds some light on where the city, like the rest of us, is trying to stretch their limited resources.

Expenditure Detail:

Account2010/2011 Actual Cost2012/2013 Recommended Budget Shade Trees & Beautification $39,083 $0 Beach Maintenance/ Supplies & Materials $58,786 $55,000 Street Maintenance/ Supplies & Materials $37,750 $37,000 Maintenance Supplies $4,709 $7,000 Street Paving $0 $0 Street & Sidewalk Reconstruction $0 $0

 

Shade Trees and Beautification. Well, I didn’t need my husband to spell out this one. The budget ax felled the shade trees. .  

The recommended budget? 

Zero.

Beach Maintenance: The Beach Maintenance Deptartment is responsible for the beach, boardwalk, comfort stations, beach access ramps and outside facilities such as MLK, Senior Center and West End Community Center. It is also responsible for planting “seasonally [sic] perennials, annuals, and shade trees for all the medians, malls, street ends and beach entrances.”  

Well, we already know the story with the shade trees. The numbers for the Supplies and Materials for Beach Maintenance are generally comparable between last year and 2012, but be that as it may, does the number seem low to anyone else but me?

The flowers, mulch etc. plus all the other materials needed to maintain the outside areas of the entire city (other than the boardwalk) are only 3% of the Beach Maintenance budget! I would have to guess that the flower planting portion is less than half of that $55,000 number.  Sad.

Street Maintenance: Ok, here’s the weird one: The Street Maintenance Dept. is responsible for maintaining all of the City of Long Beach streets. They repair potholes, lay asphalt, and do masonry repairs as needed. They also restore the street after a sewer connection has been installed from house to street.  

The total budget for this department is a little over $2M. While the Supplies and Materials/Street Maintenance line items seem to have consistent responsibly reactive budgeting, the Street Paving and Street and Sidewalk Reconstruction budgets feature big donuts: zeroes all the way across the page.

Nothing spent since at least 2010 and nothing budgeted through 2013. Sounds like patching will continue as the answer to our pothole problems.

But here comes the good news.....

(Drum roll please....)

$30,000 in Sanitation Penalties.*

*This is on the revenue side.

Sounds like Code Enforcement is on the way!!

Yes, there are one or two items to either make me scratch my head or furrow my brow. But I’m going to focus on the one that make the corners of my mouth turn up. Let’s keep our fingers crossed, but I’m really, really optimistic that we will see a much cleaner Long Beach this summer.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

LBLover April 28, 2012 at 01:04 PM
Did you notice that most of the reg. salary employees are getting a 4-5% raise this year
Publius April 28, 2012 at 01:26 PM
tired -- that, i believe, is merely a function of the union contracts -- an auto-step-up -over which the City has no authority, except to layoff workers, or negotiate a sustainable cost structure. I hope for the latter, but the City must be prepared to use the power of the former.
Misty April 28, 2012 at 01:48 PM
I, too, can't believe the income from beach passes can't sustain this city. Something is definitely fishy with those numbers. As a civil servant who has been given more responsibilities and no raise in 3 years while awaiting a contract, I find that no more people need to be hired, but the current employees need to do more. For example, have a building dept. employee go around with the sanitation trucks. It's easy to see which homes have illegal rentals simply by the amount of regular garbage. After a while, the sanitation department can make reports that can be investigated by the building dept. The sanitation workers will become proficient in this additional task over time. Revenue can be generated in so many other ways and the city must become more creative. I believe that the homeowners who commit illegal acts can make up some lost revenue through fines. I don't believe the majority who are law-abiding citizens who care about their property and its upkeep should be penalized to make up for poor fiscal decisions.
Who cares April 28, 2012 at 06:31 PM
And completely untrue since the city doesn't have 3 code enforcement officers.
Jesus Q. Gomez April 28, 2012 at 07:59 PM
The biggest impact the $1850 City tax increase and the $600 school tax increase will have on beautification is on private property. With $2500 less in every homeowners' pockets, more houses will not be painted, more grass will not be cut and more fences will fall down. Watch how many private homes become run down as homeowners struggle to pay their taxes. And watch as more and more landlords are forced to rent to Section 8 scum who destroy their property because only the government will pay $1500 for a studio rental. The City will turn a blind eye to illegal rentals when this is the only way that keeps seniors in their homes paying $14,000 property taxes. Prior to this increase, Hempstead Village has some of th higest property taxes in the nation. See how nice those houses are kept. Next year, Long Beach will have that new honor. Reelect the Democrats, you fools.
Publius April 28, 2012 at 08:14 PM
This is not a democrat, republican or election issue. It is a financial catastrophe from years of layering on headcount and unsustainable compensation. The last administration layered on headcount as they knew we were sinking into the financial abyss, and misrepresented the financial condition as they were doing so. But the truth of the matter is both parties share in the responsibility for where we are today. So the question is will current administration attack this structural problem head-on or try to cover it with tax increases and cut infrastructure and maintenance. The blueprint and the proposed budget make it clear that it is a combination of these things. I only hope the Council and Manager have the clear vision and conviction to make this right. If you or anyone else complains about raising taxes, there is only one other solution, cutting headcount, compensation and improvements. So I assume that is the camp you fall in.
Neutron April 28, 2012 at 08:54 PM
Publius makes some good points. The city has around 390 employees. One would wonder why we need 390 employees to keep such a small city running. We have some fine people working for the city, but the truth is we just have too many of them. We know the city spends way too much and we know that the majority of the city budget (about 82%) goes to employee salaries and benefits. So why would the city place such a huge financial burden as a 20% tax increase (City, School Library) on thousands and thousands of residents, rather than do what needs to be done and reduce the number of city employees by 60 or 70 people? But there is a pretty simple answer…politics. The last few elections in this city have been decided by relatively slim margins. And since many of this city’s resident are apathetic when it comes to voting, as evidenced by the pathetic turnout on voting days, keeping a voting block of 390 employees happy can mean the difference between winning and losing an election. So for the politicians it makes more sense to stick to the residents, many of which don’t even vote. Watch how few people vote on May 15 or the poor turnout for the city budget hearing and you will see exactly what I mean. We’ll get 250 surfers or volleyball players to turn out to complain about some space on the beach, but for budget issues most people don’t bother. Oh people will probably come on the Patch to complain, but without even voting themselves.
Candygram for Mongo April 29, 2012 at 11:28 AM
Well said - how do we break the cycle?
Publius April 29, 2012 at 12:47 PM
As I read the May 1 agenda for that evening's City Council meeting, at the May 1 meeting (this Tuesday), the City Council will vote to hold a hearing on May 15 to increase the amount of taxes above the 2% cap established by NY state. 60% of the City Council is needed to exceed the NY State cap. Email the council members and the Manager (their email addresses are on the City website), call them and show up at the May 1 meeting (7pm City Hall) to tell them raising taxes is NOT the solution, cutting the cost structure is the answer. We cannot afford 370 FT employees, accruing pension obligations, and paying medical and other benefits. Headcount needs to go down, salaries needs to be frozen and the employees need to contribute to medical and pensions. There is no other answer.
Neutron April 29, 2012 at 02:50 PM
Follow the squeaky wheel philosophy. Go to City Council meetings and make your voice heard at the Good and Welfare session. Come and make your views known during the Council’s budget hearing on May 15. If there is one thing that often is an effective motivator for politicians, especially those that want to be reelected, it is hearing from large numbers of voters that people are not happy with them. But for that to be effective you need to make sure you vote. There is something you can do in the near term. There is a vote on May 15th for the School and Library budgets. There are two school board positions up for election as well. I am not sure if there are Library board positions up for election. If you are unhappy with the status quo, make your displeasure known in the voting booth on May 15th. I am a firm believer that if you don’t participate in the process by voting (even if your side loses) you should not be complaining. Those who complain without voting are also part of the problem, since they are not fulfilling their basic civil responsibility.
Joey Gomez April 29, 2012 at 10:02 PM
The Democrats are seeking a 16% increase in City taxes this year and a MINIMUM of 12% each of the following two years. The Democrat School Board is increasing school taxes 4% this year. Flood insurance will come back next year an additional $1000 per home. The City Council has to be stopped. They will bankrupt the residents like they are bankrupting the City. Publius is 100% correct. The City has got to cut spending, not increase it 5% as proposes. It has to lay off people, not hire dozens of Suozzi's Democrat hacks in new positions. These maniacs have to be stopped.
Nathan Jessup April 29, 2012 at 10:15 PM
The answer to fixing this mess is laying off 75 workers and a small tax increase and reign in spending,with that being said ,lets hope this administration will look into the fire dept and police which average a 120,000 a year without benefits,add another 15k on top.The pd and ufa compromise over 50percent of the overall salaries in budget while the other workers 270 doesnt equal what they cost. Of the 270 remaining at least 40 should go.This administration is saying its gonna be equal distribution of pain,Tax increaee,layoffs across the board but only time will tell. After reviewing the budget ,they should cut 15 percent in all departments and they will save 2.5 million there and freeze ot another 2mil, do that first before you raise our taxes and get rid of all the additional hourly workers who are at will employees.I will be at council meeting and will speak out.
Neutron April 30, 2012 at 01:31 AM
People that can do simple math know what needs to happen. There needs to be spending cuts, including reducing the size of the city workforce and reexamining their benefits package. The question is does the city council and city manager have the backbone to do it. If you want to see some very telling information, go to http://seethroughny.net/adv-downloads/ Download the “Cities” list, which includes the salaries of all the Long Beach City Employees (it lists 420 for 2011). You can do some interesting sorting. I suggest you look at the police and fire department salaries. It lists 105 people. Here is a breakdown for police and fire department salaries you may find interesting. Out of 105 employees listed: 88 make over $100,000 54 make over $125,000 27 make over $150,000 9 make over $170,000 Over a quarter of the police and fire department employees make over $150,000. Considering the average household income in Long Beach is $77,673 (per the 2010 census), most of our police and fire department employees live much better than the taxpayers that pay their salaries.
Publius April 30, 2012 at 07:24 AM
We need to have less folks that can get a pension -- because we cannot afford it, so hourlies and temps, etc., may actually may be a better solution to permanent headcount where they can be used effectively and not as another political reward tool.
toolittle April 30, 2012 at 02:39 PM
i think you hit the nail on the head. It would be a lot different if we actually saw the benefits of having such a large staff..such as a safe boardwalk, paved streets, etc.. I have seen too many city employees doing nothing, which doesn't justify higher taxes. Get rid of the dead wood @!
Eddie April 30, 2012 at 05:52 PM
Yes, it is unfortunate that since talk of this record-breaking tax increase that will make Long Beach the Highest Taxed City in America, real estate prices have plummeted. Last month, two homes in the President Streets have sold for less than $350,000. A two family home on East Olive Street sold for $315,000. This is a drop of nearly 20% in recent sale prices. I suppose the few Democrats who own their homes will start dumping there property rather quickly. With taxes increasing over $200/month in the next three years, we'll see mortgage escrow shortages of $400 monthly. How many homeowners can tolerate a $400 increase in their mortgage payment and remain here. Or how many renters can take a $150/month rent increase. The Democrats should be ashamed for increasing spending by $4.5 Million and asking for almost 40% in tax increases over three years.
Neutron April 30, 2012 at 06:31 PM
This is not a Democrat or Republican problem. It is a systemic problem with the way both political parties operate. Both parties have been irresponsible with spending and controlling budgets. Both parties won’t make the necessary, but politically difficult, decisions about spending cuts (e.g. reducing the size of the city workforce, reevaluating employee benefit packages). If you go into the voting booth and vote all Republican or all Democrat you are just exasperating the problem. We need to be voting for candidates that put Long Beach and its residents’ interests above those of their political party. What this city desperately needs are some third party and/or independent candidates to run for the City Council, School Board and Library Board.
Candygram for Mongo April 30, 2012 at 06:47 PM
you are indeed correct Neutron. "The few democrats who own their homes" - come on Eddie, you can do better
Neutron April 30, 2012 at 06:51 PM
You want to see another piece of data that will want to make your head explode about the tax increases...the school one in this case. Take a look at what Long Beach teachers are getting paid: http://longisland.newsday.com/templates/simpleDB/?pid=373&brand=newsday&searchField=School_district&q=long+beach&currentRecord=1 How many days a year does a teacher work?
Silly Long Beach April 30, 2012 at 07:37 PM
Neutron, while the idea of "independent candidates" is great, without really deep pockets, it is almost impossible for a truly "independent" person to run for public office. Take a look at this article which was in Saturday's NY Post. http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/editorials/outsiders_need_not_apply_zEX2v19jL89itp2m5ztR7J
Publius April 30, 2012 at 07:41 PM
The administration is not increasing spending. The numbers in the proposed budget are based on the contract increases. They are automatic. Any additional amounts are borrowings to meet the EXISTING structural deficit. The administration needs to attack the unsustainable workforce number and pay and benefits ASAP.
Eddie April 30, 2012 at 08:43 PM
There are 14,000 registered voters in Long Beach with a little more than half being Democrats. There are 3,200 homes in Long Beach. Nationally, 26% of real property owners are Democrats. If you apply that proportion to Long Beach, that means that about 800 of 3200 homes are owned by Democrats. About a quarter. Do you think Democrats would win elections if only property owners voted? The vast majority, 62% of registered Democrats, are dependent on some government payout. Of course they want higher property taxes. They don't pay them. And few make the association when their rent goes up. Thy simply blame "greedy landlords," and fight for rent controls.
Eddie April 30, 2012 at 08:45 PM
The total projected expenditures are budgeted 5% higher than last year's. That is increasing spending.
Publius April 30, 2012 at 09:09 PM
Eddie - the enemy is the unsustainable cost structure, so I will not spend more time on this point. The pension and benefit obligations of this City are burying this City and will make it Atlantis if it is not stopped now. There is no amount of taxes that can meet the present, accrued and accruing obligations. They are staggering. The Council needs to deal with this now. The unions need to be a partner in dealing with this because they, too, know it is unsustainable. And if they will not partner, the City needs to take immediate and overwhelming layoff action, which it can do. The taxpayers and other residents are already suffering for the lack of funds and burdensone taxes. Go to the meeyting tomorrow and urge the Cuncil to not seek to raise the 2% tax cap.
Publius May 01, 2012 at 12:47 PM
From comparing the seethroughny numbers with the budget to see total pay (I assume this is without benefits?) with base salary, it appears that several police officers earned overtime in excess of $40,000, and some above $50,000, and one above $75,000. How in the world is that possible????????? An out of control system.
Eddie May 01, 2012 at 01:40 PM
Overtime expenditures may be contractual or they may be mismanagement. Depends on the contracts' manning agreements. If a police position can go unfilled in the event of an absence, why shouldn't it? Unless the contract requires all positions to be filled, a wise management would carefully evaluate covering the job at overtime. Since the "inmates run the asylum," this is a bitter pill, but one that must be swallowed. Senior men live for overtime -- they depend on it. But unless management represents the taxpayer, the place becomes just one big feeding tough.
Grumpy 113 May 02, 2012 at 12:43 PM
Do you believe this budget is a prudent budget? The people who put it together have no experience either running government or preparing a budget. Ask employees in city hall the budget is a mess. There are expenses that don't make sense. We brought these people in to do the right thing and since day one we haven't aren't anything but bad press. What happened to th budget committee? I thought residents have a say they wer going to publish comments and hold meetings. Enough already. How about the police and fire depts? Why is it always the low paying csea worker? let's layoff in those depts first they account for half the budget.
Fred Barnes May 02, 2012 at 01:13 PM
I would not believe 50% of what you hear from employees in City Hall, who have a vested interest here. This new council and manager are in same position as the last on the budget. They are using a form which already has every department and spending item on it, just like last year and the year before and the year before. There are not many "low paying csea workers", 40% of the overall workers were paid more than $70,000 in salary last year. But I am in agreement that there are too many police and they are paid way too much. Several police officers pulled in close to $200,000 last year in salary. One $124,000 a year officer took home $202,000. That the "low paying csea" worker may feel the hammer will not be the choice of the city management, that will be the choice of unions if they protect the overpaid, underworked higher-ups.
Grumpy 113 May 02, 2012 at 03:57 PM
I though the new regime had bright new ideas they were going to produce a new budget, new ideas to fix things. The budget has almost identical numbers as last year and the year before except for 10 lines I mean really what did they do? As for csea employees the average salary is 50k. The police and fire average salary is 145k so where is the equality?
Fred Barnes May 02, 2012 at 05:21 PM
The CSEA should join the City in pressing the Police (and to a lesser degree the Fire Dept) to help the City and stop bleeding it dry.

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