Five years ago, we inherited a fiscal crisis from the previous administration, and just 10 months into our first term, we were all hit with Superstorm Sandy. Though progress has not come easy, Long Beach is coming back stronger, smarter and safer, and it is no accident.
We are proud to have now passed our sixth consecutive balanced budget. Smart choices have powered our recovery:
• Generating a rainy day fund, putting us back in the black – a $24.1 million turnaround;
• Improving our credit rating from Moody’s Investors Service, saving $200,000 in lower interest costs;
• And leveraging the savings from our smart recovery to stay within the state tax cap of 1.26 percent.
Together, we have faced down fiscal crisis, physical destruction, and a continuing tough financial climate for municipalities where rising fixed costs present daunting annual challenges. Every day since Sandy, we have worked hard to leverage local, state, and federal funding to invest in Long Beach’s infrastructure while keeping the burden off our local taxpayers. The right-sizing and realignment of our workforce has produced a cost savings of more than $2 million annually.
Responsibly merging our fiscal and physical recovery has generated $7.2 million for our rainy day fund and significantly reduced our fiscal stress score. We are also extremely proud to have received nine consecutive positive credit actions from Moody’s, including multiple bond upgrades.
Our fiscal management has resulted in the transformation from of a $14.7 million deficit into a $9.4 million fund balance. This has enabled us to judiciously deploy our surplus to pay for the previous administration’s deficit. This appropriation has maintained our fund balance in a responsible manner and allowed us to lower the proposed tax levy and generate a savings for the third year in a row.
Year after year, New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli has commented that our revenue and expenditure projections are reasonable. This year we cut $2.1 million from requested departmental budgets, and management continues to make health care contributions. Also, as in years past, the City Council and I have decided to forgo any salary increases.
The city’s continued recovery is guided by the City Council’s mission to deliver municipal services in a fiscally responsible, efficient, responsive, and friendly manner.
Our progress and plans for the future are broken down by the following budget priorities:
• Fiscal and physical recovery
• Public safety
• Quality of life
• Economic development
• Smart government
The road of recovery is long, but making smart choices ensures that it bends toward progress, as we drive Long Beach to reach its potential. The secret is out – Long Beach is becoming the shining City by the Sea, a model of resiliency and sustainability that constantly works to improve the quality of the Long Beach life.
And while we are proud of all we have achieved, we recognize that there continues to be hard work and tough choices ahead needed to sustain this smart recovery in the years to come.
Schnirman is the Long Beach city manager.