What won't Long Beach's approved budget do? Increase taxes


Long Beach’s nearly $105 million budget for fiscal year 2024-25, which holds the line on property taxes, was adopted by the City Council at its May 21 meeting.

The preliminary spending plan, which ran to 219 pages, was released on the city’s website in late April, and presented at the May 7 council meeting by City Manager Dan Creighton and Comptroller Inna Reznik. At the time, it included a homestead tax increase of just over 1 percent, and a non-homestead tax hike of roughly 2 percent.

Throughout their campaign for the council last fall, Brendan Finn, Chris Fiumara and Mike Reinhart emphasized to Long Beach residents that they would work to prevent property taxes from increasing. As the budget-preparation process unfolded, that appeared to be far easier said than done, but a combination of increased projected revenue and reductions in expenses helped the council fulfill its pledge.

“We are to the point where we could deliver a zero percent tax increase to our residents, which was the main objective and main comment I received from the City Council,” Creighton said. “I believe the input from each of you on the City Council, and the proposed changes by each of you, are achievable, and meet the goal of delivering the goal you set forth when the city manager’s budget was proposed. It also further achieves this goal without reductions to services to the residents, and with no reductions in staff to CSEA or the fire or Police Department,” Creighton added, referring to the Civil Service Employees Association, the city employees’ union.

Creighton presented an errata sheet listing changes that were suggested after his preliminary budget discussions with the City Council. The proposed tax levy, he said, needed to be reduced by just over $621,000 to eliminate an increase. He also explained that the city had a few fortunate things happen to make that possible.

The state budget, Creighton said, was released shortly after the city’s proposal, and contained an increase in per-capita unrestricted aid of $366,000. That was more than half of what the city needed to reach its goal. Long Beach also received a $50,000 grant for the Police Department, and city officials realized that they had not figured in a projected increase in revenue of over $100,000 for the Department of Public Works’ Division of Sanitation and Recycling, thanks to the new condominium and apartment development at the Superblock.

That combined revenue — more than $532,000 — got the city 85 percent of the way to a tax increase-free budget.

There were some reductions in proposed expenses as well, which helped financial planners meet the goal. The errata sheet listed a $265,000 drop in temporary and overtime salaries in departments including transportation, sanitation, and street and beach maintenance, as well as a decrease of just over $41,000 in Social Security and state retirement costs.

Central garage department salaries will increase by nearly $66,000, and the cost of health insurance will rise by $40,400. The projected cost of snow removal will increase as well, by just over $59,000, and communications by just over $61,000.

All told, however, city expenses will decline by over $89,000.

“I’d say that one of the highest priorities of this council was to somehow present a budget that was balanced on a zero percent tax increase,” Finn, the council president, said. “I’m very happy that, based on the input from all the council members, and the work that Dan and Inna put together, I think we’ve achieved that.”

The spending plan is about $2.7 million larger than the current budget. Reznik said that the city had little wiggle room when putting it together.

“I’m really excited, and I think the residents of Long Beach should be excited, too,” Reinhart said. “This is the first time in 10 years there will be a zero percent tax increase. I thank our city manager, I thank our council, I thank the CSEA for partnering with us and working with us and our comptroller. We feel we have the right city manager and the right staff to tackle issues going forward. Again, a zero percent tax increase should be something to be lauded and excited about.”

The council voted 4-1 to adopt the spending plan. Roy Lester voted “no.”

“This is my seventh City Council budget,” Councilman John Bendo said. “I know for most of the people up here, this is their first. They’ve only been in office a few months, and they get hit with a huge budget like this. Are there some numbers in here which raised my eyebrow? Yes, but I also believe the city manager worked hard to get his arms around things. I think this is a win for everyone.”