No Fire Companies On Chopping Block
Mayor Bill de Blasio issued last Wednesday, Feb. 12, the preliminary New York City Budget for fiscal year (FY) 2015.
“This is a progressive administration; our budget will be a progressive budget-one that will put us on the road to giving hard-working New Yorkers a fair shot,” de Blasio said in a statement. “There’s nothing mutually exclusive about being both fiscally responsible and economically progressive. This may sound counterintuitive to some, but we need a balanced budget and a strong and stable government to facilitate our fight against inequality.”
According to de Blasio, the preliminary budget is the initial plan to meet the short-term and long-term fiscal risks facing the city in the years to come-including a structural deficit left by the previous administration, and the more than 150 labor contracts left unresolved.
The de Blasio administration will invest in critical priorities for New York City’s future-such as universal, full-day pre-kindergarten for tens of thousands of 4-year-olds; an inspector general for the NYPD; enforcement of the paid sick leave act; NYCHA (New York City Housing Authority) payment relief, so more money can be invested in housing repair and maintenance; expanded services for homeless youth; and capped rent contribution for HIV/AIDS clients.
Additionally, the de Blasio budget restores “unnecessary cuts made by the last administration,” including funding to keep open 20 Fire Department companies previously targeted for elimination. The budget also restores $10 million in funding for the five borough presidents and the public advocate.
The budget for the current year, FY 2014, remains balanced by relying on $1 billion from the prior year. The FY 2015 plan right now relies on $1.8 billion of resources from the prior year for balance. The city is already facing a deficit of $1.1 billion for FY 2016.
De Blasio’s budget would restore funding to the Retiree Health Benefits Trust Fund, which pays for the cost of retiree health benefits for city workers, including health insurance, welfare funds, and Medicare Part B reimbursements. The previous plan drained $1 billion from the trust.
An unusually heavy snow season this year means reorganizing the budget so the Sanitation Department has all the resources it needs to ensure the city’s streets remain clear and safe throughout the winter.
The previous plan budgeted $57 million for the Sanitation Department to respond to snow and winter storms, and the de Blasio administration has increased that allocation by $35 million-covering costs to date, as well as expected costs for the rest of the season.
In FY 2015, there will be a $2.7 billion gap between the current level of state aid and the funding levels agreed-upon following the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit. In this preliminary budget, the de Blasio administration is asking the state for an additional $500 million to fund improvements to New York City public schools.
According to the mayor, the resources will help reduce class size and provide additional teacher supports in early grades; strengthen elementary Common Core academic intervention; and increase funding equity across schools, so students are treated more fairly.
The centerpiece of the administration’s budget agenda is education, specifically universal prekindergarten and expanded after-school programs. These investments, de Blasio said, will be transformational in improving achievement and boosting economic opportunities for every New Yorker-in every borough-and providing a long-term strategy in the fight against income inequality.
The FY 2015 preliminary budget includes an additional $530 million in revenue from a 0.0534 percent increase in the personal income tax rate for households earning more than $500,000 per year. This revenue will be solely dedicated to funding full-day universal pre-kindergarten and after-school programs beginning in FY 2015.
More than 95 percent of the increased personal income tax revenue will be paid by taxpayers with annual incomes greater than $1 million.
On the expense side, the preliminary budget provides $530 million for universal pre-kindergarten and after-school programs.
The preliminary budget also features initial funding in FY 2014, growing to $3 million in FY 2015 to set up an independent inspector general at the NYPD. This new office, created through the Community Safety Act passed last year, will help bring police and the community together by overseeing department policies and procedures, such as stop-and-frisk.
The preliminary budget also includes $4.8 million in FY 2014 and an ongoing $1.8 million FY 2015 for the Department of Consumer Affairs to ensure that additional working New Yorkers benefit from the protections provided in the paid sick leave bill.
NYCHA has been paying the NYPD approximately $70 million annually for police services at NYCHA facilities. The preliminary budget relieves NYCHA of the remaining $52.5 million that would otherwise be owed to the NYPD in FY 2014, so more money can be steered to service outstanding work orders on the NYCHA repair docket.
In order to keep the NYPD budget whole, the preliminary budget also provides the NYPD with an additional $52.5 million in city funds.
The preliminary budget also directs $1.3 million in FY 2014 and $2.4 million in FY 2015 to add 76 shelter beds for the city’s homeless and runaway youth. Services include emergency housing, food, clothing, individual and group housing, and limited transportation services.
The preliminary budget also directs $1.3 million in FY14 to improve security and programming at the Auburn and Catherine Street Shelters. In addition, the preliminary budget restores $9.3 million in FY 2014 and $19.1 million FY 2015 that was cut in the previous administration’s November modification plan.
De Blasio indicated this funding means that families that don’t know each other won’t be forced to live together in a shared apartment.
Furthermore, the preliminary budget directs $4.3 million in FY 2014 and $17.4 million in FY 2015 to cap the rent contribution for HIV/AIDS housing clients at 30 percent.
Finally, the preliminary budget restores $4.1 million in FY 2014 and $4.8 million in FY 2015 of funding cut in the previous administration’s November modification plan that supported community-based mental health providers and immunization clinics.
The administration and the City Council have until June 30 to agree upon and finalize a budget. FY 2015 begins on July 1.