By Jeremy Walsh
Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled a harsh city budget proposal Thursday that would help close a projected $4.1 billion hole at the cost of 4,300 jobs and a reduction in pay raises for teachers.
“While we will revisit these decisions as the budget process unfolds in months ahead, I will say that at this point they appear unavoidable,” Bloomberg said, noting that all but 1,000 of these job cuts will come through attrition.
The projected cuts are slated to save the city $1.6 billion, with the remainder of the deficit filled by a $2.9 billion surplus from the current fiscal year, Bloomberg said. The City Council has until June to reach an agreement on the final budget.
The mayor’s proposal also included eliminating the fifth firefighter from shifts at 60 firehouses throughout the city and ending one shift at four firehouses.
Bloomberg noted that last year the City Council worked to restore $17 million to prevent the engine companies from being shut down and said this year Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano has some potential cost-saving alternatives like removing the aging Fire Department call boxes throughout the city.
“In his judgment, the city would be just as safe without them,” he said. “But the city needs a change in law to do that.”
The projected 4,286 jobs cut include 834 layoffs. None of the layoffs will come from the uniformed services, Bloomberg said.
Although he said that layoffs stopped “at the schoolhouse door,” the mayor also opened a salvo at the United Federation of Teachers, offering them a 2 percent raise on up to the first $70,000 of their salary. The union is asking for 4 percent.
United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew called the mayor’s proposal “simply unacceptable.”
“The UFT will continue — as we have always done — to work to protect the schools of New York City,” he said in a statement.
Further cuts could also be added depending on the outcome of the state’s budget process. Gov. David Paterson has unveiled a proposal including cuts that would increase the city’s deficit by $1.3 billion. Bloomberg has warned that such a budget would force the city to cut 18,500 jobs.
“It basically protects the state’s workforce and makes our workforce have to bear the burden of what I would argue is the state’s irresponsible fiscal policies for many years which is now coming home to bite everybody,” he said..
Other city elected officials were cautious in their reactions to Bloomberg’s proposal.
“The mayor’s proposal contains quite some pain, unavoidably so, given the large $4.1 billion deficit the city currently faces,” Comptroller John Liu said.
Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) indicated that negotiations were just beginning.
“As we continue to respond to the economic crisis, we will make every effort to find ways of generating revenue and seek out additional savings for the city,” she said in a statement. “The Council proposed a number of alternative cuts last year that the administration adopted, and we will continue to examine additional possibilities for this year.”
Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.