LBHA is facing budget shortfall HUD freezes spending at current level while revising funding formula

Staff Writer

By Carolyn O

LBHA is facing budget shortfall
HUD freezes spending at current level while revising funding formula

A drop in the level of support from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development for Long Branch’s Housing Authority may not be felt right away, but officials say there could be problems down the road.

According to Michael Winnick, president of the Long Branch Housing Authority, HUD recently began revamping its financing rules. While it does that, the funding it provides will be frozen at this year’s level.

Because of rising costs, particularly for utility services and health-care costs for employees, HUD will provide a significantly smaller portion of the LBHA budget for the upcoming year.

According to Cindy Toy, who works in the LBHA finance department, HUD provided approximately 92 percent of the authority’s budget this year. With funding frozen at current levels that will drop to about 83 percent for the next fiscal year.

The budget shortfall created by the change will be about $130,000, Toy said.

Winnick said the housing authority also is subject to additional requirements by HUD, but there will be no additional money to support the mandated changes.

"This will have no immediate effect on the standard of living but within two to three years infrastructure and some of our programs will be affected," Winnick said.

The LBHA, currently operating with a $6 million budget (with an additional $2 million for programs), supports roughly 1,400 housing units, of which 300 are designated for senior citizens.

Because it is facing an operating shortfall, the LBHA has received approval to use 10 percent of its 2003 Comprehensive Grant, a grant funding capital improvements, as part of its operating budget.

However, that move only shifts where the LBHA will have a budget problem, according to Winnick. "If we’re not re-funded for the utilities expenses, we’ll be short on our capital program," he said. "These things aren’t a wish list; we’re not talking about putting in valet parking. These things are realistic concerns and needs. The increase of utilities and reduction in funding puts us in a difficult position."

Winnick noted that the LBHA is operating some of the oldest public housing buildings in the state, some dating back to the 1930s.

Grant Court, the first public housing in the city, was the eighth housing development in the state to receive funding from the federal government, and the building is still in use.

"What we really need is to replace them, but one of our big problems is that we’ve been maintaining the buildings too well," Winnick said.

He explained that the money available to replace public housing comes from HUD’s Hope Six program which is a competitive grant process.

"We’re competing against places like Newark, Camden and Trenton," Winnick said. "Our buildings are in good shape comparatively. If we had ignored the buildings, we would be eligible for money to replace them."

This latest revamping of the HUD formula may be part of a trend Winnick said he has seen in the last few years where the federal government is attempting to shift responsibility to local governments.

Any such move could significantly increase the burden already being carried by local taxpayers, according to the authority’s president.

Winnick pointed out that because the LBHA is tax exempt, other property owners in the city bear a significant burden because they fund much of the cost of educating the children who live in the public housing as well as all borough services, such as the police department and the department of public works that serve the facilities.

The LBHA does pay the city for additional policing at its buildings. "But that too," said Winnick, "is paid through a drug-elimination grant which will see a reduction."

The neighborhood has visible signs of drug activity, according to Winnick, and that creates a great concern he shares with other commissioners since the drug program funding has been reduced from $250,000 to $140,000. In addition said Winnick residents are looking to see if recommendations of a five-year community plan devised from residents and resident councils will be implemented. He said that may be difficult while trying to reduce the cost of housing.

No link found between sunscreen, blindness

The New Jersey Poison Information and Education System (NJPIES) has received calls during the past summers from concerned citizens regarding the myth that getting sunscreen in the eyes causes blindness. Many of the calls have been from parents who are worried about using sunscreen on young children, according to a press release from Bayshore Community Hospital, Holmdel.

"We have searched for information to suggest a possible link, but have not found anything in our efforts," said L. Scott Larsen, director of the department of emergency medicine.

However, this does not mean that sunscreens cannot be problematic or harmful it they get into the eyes; some products cause irritation, redness, discomfort, tearing, or temporary blurring of vision.

The benefits of sunscreens outweigh any potential risk when the products are used as directed. Sunscreens are highly recommended when exposure to the sun is likely; in fact, some medications increase the risk of getting an exaggerated sunburn, therefore sunscreens are strongly encouraged, especially in cases like these.

Proper use of sunscreen includes careful application around the eyes. When using a spray applicator, the individual should not spray the lotion on the face, rather it should be sprayed on the hands, then applied to the face.

In case of any eye exposure to any chemical, including sunscreen, NJPIES suggests flushing the eye with a gentle stream of warm water, and then calling the N.J. Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 to determine what, if any, treatment is necessary.

L.B. summer beach series to begin July 8

The Long Branch Summer Beach Series will kick off July 8, and continue to run each Sunday during July and August, on the corner of Ocean and Laird avenues. Admission to the shows is free, which run from 7-8:30 p.m. The Black Widow Band will perform at the July 8 show.

The series is presented by the city of Long Branch and the Jersey Shore Jazz and Blues Foundation (JSJBF).

Line Drive will perform on July 15, followed by the Chuck Lambert Band on July 22. A Blues group, the Universal Sound Band will perform July 29.

The series continues on Aug. 5 with the Dennis Gruenling Blues Band with Gina Fox. The Jazz Lobsters will provide "big band" tunes on Aug. 12, accompanied by John Esposito. The VooDudes will perform zydeco on Aug. 19.

Wrapping up the series is the Terraplane Blues on Aug. 26.

The JSJBF wraps up the summer season with its second annual Summer Beachfest on the beach in Long Branch. The event is free, and dates, times and lineup information will be announced later this summer.

For more information about the events, call Allen Consulting at (732) 946-2711.