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Big Cuts Avoided with Budget Deal

FDNY, Schools, Libraries Avoid Ax

Threatened funding cuts that would have led to the closure of Fire Department units, public libraries and after-school programs were averted once again in the final city budget agreed upon by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the City Council on Monday, June 25, nearly a week before the July 1 deadline.

According to Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the budget deal for the 2013 fiscal year closes a projected deficit with resources saved from previous budgets, agency reductions and increased revenues from the technology, tourism, higher education and film and television industries.

Back in May, Bloomberg unveiled his executive budget proposal which included proposed funding reductions that critics charged would have shut down up to 20 Fire Department units permanently, reduced after-school programs across the city and decimated public library systems to the point where service hours would have been limited to just two or three days a week.

Just as in recent years in which such cuts were proposed, those reductions were scrapped through negotiations between the mayor and the City Council on the final budget.

“[W]e’ve again produced an ontime, balanced budget for our city that doesn’t raise taxes on New Yorkers, and that preserves the essential services that keep our city strong,” Bloomberg said on Monday. “When times were better, the city set aside surplus revenue-and when the first storm clouds gathered in 2007, we began cutting budgets. These actions- and our work over the past decade to diversify the economy and make it less reliant on Wall Street- have allowed us to avoid the severe service cuts that many other cities are facing.”

“Our budget isn’t just a plan for how to spend taxpayer dollars,” Quinn added. “It’s a statement about who we are as a city. And this budget says we are a city where every child will be given the opportunity to learn; a city that keeps its streets safe from violence; a city that believes every New Yorker has the right to a greater quality of life; a city that refuses to balance its books by hiking taxes [and] a city that believes core services cannot be sacrificed, even in tough economic times.”

The City Council was scheduled to approve the budget deal during their session today, Thursday, June 28.

Quinn noted that the new budget for the 2013 fiscal year, which begins on July 1, includes a revamped day care system. According to a statement from the City Council, the program aims to provide “an invaluable quality early childhood education for infants and toddlers, giving them the best start possible and benefits that will last a lifetime.”

“Working parents need to have their children protected and cared for while they are at work. Children need to receive a high quality educational experience at an early age. We are creating a program that responds to both of these needs,” Quinn said.

The revamped program will provide nearly 4,000 new day care slots to children and provides that all day care slots are assigned based on income data for each ZIP code in New York City. The city also agreed to provide funding for job training and placement at service providers who are unable to fulfill the new standards for early childhood education, the Council noted.

All Fire Department units were also spared for another year in the final city budget. Steve Cassidy, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association (UFA), praised Quinn and the City Council for working to the proposed Fire Department cuts in the mayor’s executive budget in May.

“Closing any fire companies would negatively impact the lives of all New Yorkers,” Cassidy said in a statement. “The last decade has been the busiest in the history of the FDNY, as firefighters alone responded to more than five million emergencies. As New York evolves and grows, citizens are requiring more FDNY protections, not less. We are thankful that the speaker and members of the Council recognized this and took action.”

The budget deal also restored $90 million in funding to the New York, Brooklyn and Queens public library systems. Thomas W. Galante, president and CEO of the Queens Borough Public Library, said in a statement that the restored funding spares planned layoffs and preserves “at least five-day-a-week library service … in every neighborhood.”

Galante noted, however, that the library will maintain its current hiring freeze and will continue “economies in the new materials budget.”

“We will continue to be open for service for all the summer readers, English language learners, book groups and children’s programs,” he added. “More than 85,000 people signed petitions and wrote postcards and attended rallies over the past few months. That tremendous outpouring of support meant a great deal to us and demonstrated the importance of libraries in Queens communities.”.

Other highlights of the budget include funding for the Gun Violence Task Force, which provides improvement programs in areas where gun violence is prevalent and more funding for senior case managers to avoid excessive case loads.

The City Council also reached an agreement with the DOE to avoid a reduction in teachers and the potential layoff of 250 school aides. The city will also add “roughly 1,000” teachers to the school system and maintain overall levels of funding.

Though the 2013 fiscal year’s issues have been resolved, Bloomberg warned that the city faces “a significant challenge again next year,” referring to a projected $2.5 billion budget deficit in Fiscal Year 2014. Nonetheless, he expressed confidence that “we’ll meet any challenges that arise.”

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