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Teachers, firehouses spared in budget

The City Council and Mayor Michael Bloomberg came to a budget agreement on June 24 that would save teachers’ jobs and avert the closure of four fire companies in Queens.
“We’re overjoyed that a budget agreement was reached. We feel like we dodged a bullet,” said Ed Wendell, president of the Woodhaven Residents Block Association.
With help from the Richmond Hill Block Association, the two groups spread awareness about the possible closure of Engine Company 294 in Woodhaven – one of the four engine companies saved. Engine Companies 306 in Bayside, 128 in Long Island City and 328 in Far Rockaway were also saved.
The avoided teacher lay-offs would help Queens schools prevent larger classroom sizes and educational strains that would have affected the borough’s students.
“The winners in this are the children,” said Dermot Smyth, the Queens political action coordinator for the United Federation of Teachers (UFT).
The UFT agreed to concessions to end teacher sabbaticals for one year and would require all teachers that don’t have full-time assignments to work as substitute teachers. Both concessions are expected to save the city $60 million.
Overall, the $65.7 billion budget agreement saved 4,100 teachers jobs and 20 fire companies in the city that were on the chopping block in Bloomberg’s executive budget in May. The agreement balances the city budget with no additional tax increases for city residents.
The council and the mayor’s office agreed on the budget in time for the beginning of the 2012 fiscal year on July 1, and will have voted on it by press time.
The buzz from last week’s state legislative sessions were overwhelmed by the passage of the same-sex marriage bill, but the state senate also voted to approve a measure affecting the city’s livery cab drivers.
Under the bill, livery cab drivers would be able to pick up street hails in Queens, upper Manhattan (above 96th Street) and the three other boroughs. The Taxi and Limousine Commission would sell 30,000 permits at $1,500 each, which would give livery drivers the same privileges as yellow cab drivers.
The bill now heads to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s desk for approval.
The state senate also agreed on an upstate property tax cap of two percent or the rate of inflation – whichever is less, imposed stronger rent regulation laws to protect renters and would allow the City University of New York (CUNY) and State University of New York (SUNY) to raise tuition by $300 over the next five years.

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