Schools on chopping block – QNS.com

Schools on chopping block

Mayor Michael Bloomberg delivers the fiscal year 2012 budget. AP Photo/Mary Altaffer
By Howard Koplowitz

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has unveiled his $65.6 billion budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which proposes no tax increases but calls for more than 4,600 teachers to lose their jobs due to layoffs.

The mayor’s spending plan also relies on the state to give the city $600 million in aid to be balanced, but it is unclear whether the state will cough up that amount.

Bloomberg said his plan closes a $4.5 billion deficit due to $5.2 billion in cuts through deficit-closing actions taken by city agencies and additional tax revenues “that reflect the city’s continually improving economy.”

“By tightening our own belt for years and growing our economy, we’ve kept our house in order and closed our own budget gap without further cuts,” the mayor said. “Our sound management will help avoid the worst impacts of state cuts, but we can’t compensate for the full loss in state funding. So if we have to lay teachers off, we have to ensure we can keep the very best.”

Bloomberg reiterated the need for the state to provide $600 million in funding for the city in order for his budget to be balanced.

“We’re ready to do our part to help the state, but we don’t deserve to be penalized for our responsible actions. If the state does not come through, layoffs and service cuts will be more severe.”

The mayor said three factors led to the city’s rebound in tax revenues: that job creation in the city is occurring at a faster rate than the rest of the nation; the city recorded a record 48.7 million tourists last year; and the city’s commercial real estate market is “remaining the strongest in the U.S.”

Bloomberg said the city is losing $1.86 billion in state and federal funding for education, which forced him to boost education spending from $5.9 billion when he first took office to $13.6 billion in the upcoming fiscal year to start July 1.

The mayor said the city still needs state-funded education aid or the city will need to eliminate 6,166 teaching positions, including 4,666 through layoffs.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) said she was discouraged by the possibility of eliminating teaching positions and other cuts to city services.

“The Council has serious concerns about 4,200 teacher layoffs, losing nearly 17,000 unfunded childcare slots and the closure of 20 fire companies,” she said in a joint statement with Council Finance Chairman Domenic Recchia (D-Brooklyn). “At the state level, we are deeply troubled that state cuts would result in the closure of 100 senior centers, a full third of the city’s senior centers.”

“As we continue to work towards balancing our strained budget, we will make every effort to protect many of these services that New York depends on,” she said. “We will be working very hard together with Mayor Bloomberg to push Albany for a state budget that is fair and equitable to New York City, because the fact of the matter is our city budget depends on getting our fair share from the state.”

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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