Mayor and Council ok $59B budget

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn were all smiles as they kissed and shook hands on a $59 billion city budget that includes a 7 percent across-the-board property tax cut. Excitement among homeowners in Queens, however, was lukewarm.
Part of that may be because the increase in property value weighs about equally with the decreasing tax rate, netting homeowners little or no savings. However the annual $400 tax rebate for homeowners will be renewed for next year.
Bloomberg’s original budget proposal called for a 5 percent property tax cut, but city council members pushed for more. The final deal, said Bloomberg, will keep homeowners’ tax bills flat in Fiscal Year 2008, which begins July 1.
“We’ve produced a budget that we think is good for the entire city,” said Bloomberg on Tuesday, June 12, “one that will carry this city forward.”
Some local residents remained skeptical of how much money they will actually save. One woman, who asked to be identified only as Roma, has owned a home in Douglaston for 47 years.
“They overcharge, and then they give a little back, so that it seems like a windfall,” said Roma. “But, it’s about time we get a little money back.”
“I’m sure they’ll hit me hard in a different area,” said Ed Ginsberg, who has owned a Windsor Park condo for 27 years. “The city gives with one hand and takes with the other.”
Not all sentiment, however, was negative. Ginsberg, for example, conceded the tax break was “appreciated.”
John Benazzi, who has lived in Bayside for 50 years, called the cut “fantastic.”
“I’m retired,” said Benazzi, 86. “But, I still have to eat.”
The new budget also sets aside $1 billion for a new police academy in Queens, as well as $42.7 million to keep all public libraries open six-days-a-week.
An additional $2.3 billion will be put toward reducing the amount of expected debt for the 2009 and 2010 fiscal years.
Despite the high amount of spending, the city retains a surplus of $4.4 billion, which, said Speaker Quinn, reflects a “fiscally prudent and responsible” accord.
City Councilmember David Weprin, who chairs the Council’s Finance Committee, called the budget a “big boost” that will meet “both the current and future needs of New Yorkers.” Weprin’s own initiative to provide after-school and summer programs for autistic children received $1.5 million in the deal.
The budget is expected to be approved by the City Council, which must vote on it before property tax bills are mailed to homeowners on Friday, June 15.
Other highlights of the budget are:

  • $200 million toward transit projects and environmental initiatives.
  • Eliminates city sales tax on clothing and shoe purchases over $110.
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