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Taxing Problems in Paradise

Long Beach runs like a Metropolis with the budget of a Mayberry. The New City Council needs to be asking questions and thinking differently.

One of the things the new City Council talks about when they discusses a healthy future for the City is community involvement.  With the inability to spend surpluses on ideas for renewal, City Manager Jack Schnirman suggests a Citizen’s Budget Committee and an Economic Development Committee.  Neither have taken shape as the controversial budget comes closer to a vote.

There are many people, taxpayers in Long Beach that have ideas about the budget and the tax increases and the potential union layoffs.  Many showed up at the City Council meeting.  Most stay home and wait.

I have spoken to a lot of people at ballgames, on the train, in restaurants and on the street about budgets and tax increases.  If we drew a Citizen’s Budget Committee from people who don’t participate in political clubs, council meetings or blogs we would know the people have a very different idea of what has to be done.  Many of those ideas had advocates at the council meeting.

In order of citizen opinion:

1. Cut the size of the police department. 

There are 35 (out of 77) cops that earn over $130,000 per year in long Beach. It accounts for over $4.5 million in the budget.  Police are entitled to pensions by contract, accumulated sick days and comp time.

If officers don’t use sick days, they accumulate them in cash.  Many people question the number of high ranking officers and the need for a detective squad in Long Beach.  While the City Council is talking about layoffs, they are not talking about police cutbacks.

2. Trim the government. 

Around the time of the City’s last crisis, wise planners arranged with the State to eliminate jobs by attrition.  By design, this helped shrink government but the incoming administration following the job cut filled those positions.

 As the last administration was leaving town, they hired more fireman and City workers that the government couldn’t afford.  It was not in the budget to handle them.  Taxpayers know it and many believe the newest hires should be let go.  That is apparently in the budget plan.  The new hires and part time workers made fair appeals to the City Council to reconsider.

The problem with firing police and government workers in Long Beach is that 95% of the people who work in these jobs live in this town.  They are our friends and neighbors.  When Democrats point to “friends and families” or Republicans point to patronage jobs, we are recognizing a long tradition of creating jobs for people in politics. 

Long Beach, being a City, hires like a Metropolis but we have a Mayberry Budget.  We have a reached a critical point where taxpayers cannot sustain this payroll with benefits and care for parks and infrastructure, the Rec Center and The Boardwalk.  There are no more people moving in.  The barrier island has as many taxpayers as it is going to have and government has grown too big.

The City Council must get creative.  And when they are done with being creative, they must be even more creative to do more with less.   When you read of a 16% increase it includes planning for government worker retirements.  Then, they are discussing a SURCHARGE to pay down a $10,000,000.00 debt.

A Citizens Budget Committee will likely agree that workers with benefits need to start contributing to healthcare.  That has precedent in labor give backs throughout the country in these hard times.  They need give up pay increases and other perks to help get the City in proper footing.  They are all part of the community.  Long Beachers who do not work for the government have to pay or participate in healthcare and they have their own retirement plans that do not come with guarantees.  The hard times that messed up City finances crushed many retirement plans for private sector taxpayers.  They too are living with less money and credit and higher gas prices.

3. Revenues

At the same time we are cutting spending, we need a strong plan for revenues.  I have spoken to people in the community who have good instincts for economic development too.

Take a look at our assets and make them work for us.  The five most mentioned assets for revenue possibilities are:

  1. The Waldbaums Shopping Center
  2. The Super Block
  3. The Beach
  4. The Bayfront by the water tower
  5. The Medical Center

City Revenues

The Firefighters discussing layoffs at the budget hearing spoke of a second ambulance as a revenue generating service – in addition to providing a level of security and safety we would rather not do without.  The City admits, however that they do not have as good a record of collecting payment for ambulance use as they should.

The City should implement a beach pass security system so that cash is not collected at the entry to the beach.  Using bar coded tickets, online pre-paid beach passes and/or wrist bands along with collecting cash at a single location will help stop leakage.  Using credit cards at the entrances will benefit a family paying $12 per person too.  These systems are used at parks and amusements everywhere.  Why not here?

Long Beach pays huge fees and mandates to the state and to the County.  Perhaps we can find a way to keep that from happening and bring sales tax home too.  We are a small City with dwindling revenues and expenditure beyond our means that needs to find ways to keep our money here.  If we need a police department as large as the one we have, why do we pay for Nassau County Police too?

Perhaps our Sanitation Department should be charging fees for commercial pick-ups as is a common practice using private carters

These are solutions everyday people are talking about.   Everyday people are workers here, taxpayers here and voters here.

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.

Jimmy Hennessy May 16, 2012 at 10:17 PM
Stu, You forgot to disclose that your personal political consulting firm Prime NY made nearly $20,000 off the Long beach Democrats this pats year! Go 3/4 down the page at: http://www.elections.ny.gov:8080/plsql_browser/EXPENSESA_county?ID_in=C46618&date_From=&date_to=&OFFICE_in=ALL&AMOUNT_From=&AMOUNT_to=&ZIP1=&ZIP2=&ORDERBY_IN=N
LBLover May 16, 2012 at 10:49 PM
Jimmy where are your ideas stop slamming people and present ideas it was the coalition that got us into this mess...
Rocko May 17, 2012 at 01:28 PM
Right On!
delete me May 17, 2012 at 01:53 PM
you're joking, right? he's NEVER going to admit to that. He's setting himself up to run for council.
Candygram for Mongo May 17, 2012 at 01:57 PM
his post seems to address some valid points and does not appear to favor Long Beach Democrats - what would be the point of this disclosure?
delete me May 17, 2012 at 02:14 PM
The Patch editor is completely aware of who Stu is and it seems he didn't find it necessary to include that disclosure. If you have an issue with the way Joseph edits the Patch perhaps you should stop writing opinion pieces for it
Stuart Osnow May 17, 2012 at 03:16 PM
A condemnation from Jimmy and a nomination to run for Council from his disciple, called AWESOME. My piece is still about alternatives to the City Council plan of raising taxes. Many of my readers believe spending cuts and alternative revenue plans are better choices then raising taxes. Whatever I did to help elect the Democrats who are dealing with this, is one thing. What I write to create debate about policy is another. I am confident that my constructive discussion is more credible than the nonsense you have been writing about, Jimmy.
delete me May 17, 2012 at 03:51 PM
Hold your horses there, Stu! I'm not a disciple!!! Rereading my post I must clarify that the Patch editor, not you, found it NOT NECESSARY to include a discloser so if Hennessy has a problem with it he should take it up with Joseph and not you....otherwise Hennessy should just stop writing opinion pieces if he has an issue this website is edited. His opinion pieces are most definitely steps towards his running for council. It's pretty disgusting how he consistently poops on this city to further his personal agenda. How boring.
LB4 May 18, 2012 at 02:00 PM
Stu, you are right on with your strategy of stepping back and taking a big-picture view of what can be done. Whether or not I agree with your points, the fact that you actually provide some specific ideas and actions that can help towards getting the city out of this mess is refreshing and commendable. This Hennessy character would not dare put anything original out there. He reminds me of a cross between Al Sharpton and Rob Blogoyavitch, except not as intelligent and a bit more cowardice. But I digress... This type of brainstorming is what this city needs (along with a bit more diversity in the gene pool at city hall)... Some other suggestions/observations: 1. Why does Long Beach need it's own transit system/buses? The expenses to keep this system running must be exorbitant. Just throwing it out there. 2. Why not create beach parking lots in the undeveloped land on Broadway, or even back by the water tower. You see them all over the Jersey shore and people shell out upwards of $20 a piece to park for the day, and all the lots are full!!! Could you imagine how many cars would fit on the Super Block and how much additional revenue that could mean for the city on a daily basis??? Again, just a thought
LBMom May 18, 2012 at 04:55 PM
Yes, This should be the first step. This should be a no-brainer. This should be happening yesterday! This just means people have to get reasonable and work cooperatively and EVERY city department has to take a hit. "A Citizens Budget Committee will likely agree that workers with benefits need to start contributing to healthcare. That has precedent in labor give backs throughout the country in these hard times. They need give up pay increases and other perks to help get the City in proper footing. They are all part of the community. Long Beachers who do not work for the government have to pay or participate in healthcare and they have their own retirement plans that do not come with guarantees. The hard times that messed up City finances crushed many retirement plans for private sector taxpayers. They too are living with less money and credit and higher gas prices." Get this done and then tackle the other ways to create new revenue. Expenses are what we SHOULD have some control over. Come on City employees. It is time to pay the piper.
George Monroe May 18, 2012 at 08:46 PM
Yes, Stuart, it is WRONG for you to fail to mention that you are employed by the Long Beach Democratic Committee. Most would call it FRAUD. If you are any kind of journalist you know this and you won't let it happen again.
Stuart Osnow May 19, 2012 at 01:54 AM
Disclaimer: This blogger is not employed by the Democratic Party. Long Beach Dema contracted the campaign services of Prime New York during the election cycle. More important is that the writings of this blogger express only his opinions or research. He is not expressing policies of the Democratic Party, Republican Party or the City Council. He does not regard any bloggers or blog commenters as arbiters of journalistic ethics. He prefers that Patch readers not derail important citizen discussion for their political agendas.
Disgusted Homeowner May 19, 2012 at 03:29 AM
Stu 2 Jimmy 0 Good Ideas. Isn't the Med Center a private organization. State Comptroller will reveal cash issues on Beach. Bottom line Stu you know these people first hand. They are not going to let the citizens dictate to them how to hold and control power. There is always room for a Jimmy though, he knows where all the "bodies are buried".
Disgusted Homeowner May 19, 2012 at 03:34 AM
OMG Mr H they sell labels.Really now ,you know how to take your credibility and drag it through the mud. I sold the Dems $ 20,000 in labels let me disclose that before I discuss ideas to save the city. Duh?
Disgusted Homeowner May 19, 2012 at 03:38 AM
LB4 I can't swear but Buses may self sustain considering Federal money that is available. Give Vieola a chance and you may see how bad things may become.
Stuart Osnow May 19, 2012 at 04:08 AM
I came upon someone who looks to the medical center as an underutilized facility taking up space. He advocates selling the property for development and locating smaller local venues for emergencies and other community health services. The opinion is that patients are better off going the South Nassau than to LBMC. I do not know enough about the quality of care there or if LBMC can do a better job as a hospital or find a progressive effective way to provide healthcare in Long Beach. The gentleman I spoke to is writing a paper advocating his position. He thinks the City is better off selling the land and and banking the revenues.
Joel May 19, 2012 at 07:04 AM
If he wanted to run for council, he would have this past year....
Joel May 19, 2012 at 07:06 AM
"The blogger is not employeed by the democratic party" however a few months ago, he received thousands of dollars to represent the democratic party and did so by trying to fol the Patch readers posing as an unpartisan journalist.
Stuart Osnow May 19, 2012 at 11:04 AM
Wrangler, someone commented that there needs to be "more diversity in the gene pool at city hall". This is true. As often as the seats change, the policies and historic precedents stay the same. It is hard to get your head around all that you are responsible for and there is little time for change. Start with union contracts. They are iron clad. State laws protect municipal workers against changes to their contracts in difficult financial times. The councils past, a small circle of friends, could never have known (or possible not cared) that eventually we would not be able to sustain the employment contracts. The Sofield Administration took arrogant steps of increasing government employment when they knew they should not and bold liberties to borrow money so they could cash out. That added to our problems today. I have no doubt that the Democrats have people who earned jobs or were offered jobs in this new administration that simply cannot happen. In the new paradigm for government in 2012, young students of government need to set the tone and the pace for keeping a municipality solvent, while planning for the needs of the future, decades out. I accept the City Council might not let citizens dictate to them how to hold and control power, but this City Council makes to claim at having the answers. They are not comfortable with the cards they have been dealt, although some can be seen bluffing. Long Beach taxpayers need to look to the new City Manager.
Candygram for Mongo May 19, 2012 at 11:17 AM
...and now that that is out of the way, back to the issues at hand!
Richard Boodman May 20, 2012 at 03:23 AM
Why would anyone want to listen to Hennessy? His record as a member and supporter of the previous administration speaks for itself. These are difficult financial times. Tough decisions have to be made.
Kevin McNulty May 21, 2012 at 07:31 PM
Why does Tagney make more than the NYPD commissioner?
Stuart Osnow May 21, 2012 at 08:38 PM
Average Police Officer salaries for job postings in Long Beach, NY are 29% higher than average Police Officer salaries for job postings nationwide. www.indeed.com/salary/q-Police-Officer-l-New-York,-NY.html

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