Long Beach city clerk Becky Schruff had a stack of bills sitting on her desk. How to pay them was not the concern it was a half dozen years ago. According to Long Beach City Clerk Becky Schruff, one word describes the city's financial condition, "Solvent. We actually have a small surplus."
Somewhere on Schruff's desk was the Long Beach budget proposal for fiscal year 2004. The $13.9 million package avoids a city tax increase. But for the second year in a row, it also omits a city employee pay raise. "I've been doing this for 20 years," said Schruff. "I know what the budget is. And sometimes it can happen. Sometimes it can't. And that's something the aldermen really want to look at for next year."
Library clerk Shannon Schmidtling would like a pay bump. But she's more interested in the city completing a library expansion. "I'd rather have the big building for the kids to come to and spend time," the seven year library employee said. "I'd rather any extra money that I would get go to that, for the kids."
Last year's budget had $90,000 in it to help pay for the library expansion. The new budget doesn't pay for large projects. It concentrates on smaller drainage repairs.
Several years ago, Long Beach was so broke, it had to turn off several street lights to lower city electric bills. When the sun goes down, the lights will be back on. That's because, in Becky Schruff's words, the city's finances are "back in the black."
In October, Long Beach aldermen will turn their attention to the 2005 budget. Their goal is to figure out what they have to do between now and next year, to fund pay raises and major drainage projects.