By Howard Koplowitz
Mayor Michael Bloomberg rolled out his $65.7 billion budget plan Friday, which includes eliminating 6,000 teacher positions, including some 4,500 jobs through layoffs.
“I’m not trying to lay off teachers … but the reality is we have to pay for it,” the mayor said.
Bloomberg’s proposal Friday is just a starting point in negotiations with the City Council.
The deadline for the city to agree on a spending plan is July 1, the beginning of the city’s fiscal year.
City Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) called Bloomberg’s proposal “outrageous.”
“I think it’s just a political move to change the process of how teachers get fired,” Weprin said, referring to Bloomberg’s suggestion to get rid of the last in, first out method.
Weprin said he would rather the mayor cancel outside consultants to the city Department of Education for a year or get rid of yearly school progress reports for one year, which he said “try to make the mayor look good.”
Bloomberg said his plan uses the remaining $3.2 billion saved from an $8 billion surplus next fiscal year and dipped into the health-care reserve fund to pay for costs.
“There’s no surplus in this,” Bloomberg said, referring to critics, including the teachers’ union, which said the city would have an abundance of funds and would not need to fire teachers. “End of story.”
But Weprin said the mayor could tap into more of the health-care reserve instead of firing teachers.
“At all costs, we cannot lay off teachers,” the councilman said.
About 1,500 teaching positions are expected to be lost due to attrition, although that number could be as high as 2,000 if the economy improves and there are more job opportunities, the mayor said.
Bloomberg said drops in state and federal support is “our biggest problem.”
The mayor said state aid to the city as a share of the city’s budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 dropped from 21 percent to 17 percent of the total budget and federal aid plunged from 15 percent to 8 percent.
Bloomberg said pension costs and the city’s deficit will increase “unless something changes in Albany.”
The mayor’s plan injects an additional $2 billion for education over last year’s budget to compensate for $853 million in federal education cuts, but the state cut back education funds for the city by $1.2 billion.
The budget also adds $1.2 billion for health care to offset $2.2 billion in Medicaid cuts, which Bloomberg said is actually $4.4 billion when Medicaid matching funds are taken into account.
City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) said proposed cuts to the city Department of Youth and Community Development and the city Parks Department do not help people in his district.
“There’s nothing in that budget that doesn’t hurt us,” Comrie said.
Bloomberg’s spending plan also proposes eliminating 20 fire companies in the city — an idea that drew criticism from City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), chairwoman of the Council Fire & Criminal Justice Committee.
“As we approach the 10th anniversary of the attacks of 9/11, our FDNY remains as busy, strong and heroic as ever before — and the city needs to be there for them now just as they have been and always are there for us,” she said. “The mayor’s proposal [Friday] to close 20 fire companies is dangerous, costly and a serious threat to public safety.”
The budget did have good news for the city’s child care advocates, as Bloomberg said his plan funds child care with $40 million that subsidizes low-income parents.
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4573.