By Sadef Ali Kully
Negotiations on the fiscal 2016 city budget took a major turn and concluded earlier than expected Monday night, when the City Council and mayor announced an agreement that includes almost 1,300 additional police officers and more funding for the city’s libraries.
The $78.5 billion budget deal addresses income inequality, the aging population, education, immigrants and in a major shift by Mayor Bill de Blasio providers for the hiring of 1,297 additional officers and moving 415 officers from desk positions to street duty.
“What is clear is we share values. We share strong values, and that animates this budget. It doesn’t mean everything went easily,” de Blasio said. “Sometimes there were some tough conversations. But we got through them, because we had a common resolve to help our communities. We also knew we had to secure the fiscal future of this city.”
An estimated $170 million will be used to add the new uniformed officers to the NYPD, coupled with reforms in overtime and the use of civilians that are expected to generate over $70 million in savings when fully phased-in. The new officers will be dedicated to counter-terrorism efforts and neighborhood policing.
“This early, fiscally responsible budget will uplift New Yorkers in every neighborhood across the five boroughs,” said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan)., who cited the plans to establish a new citywide bail fund and to create new jobs for young adults.
One of the challenges was the library budget, which has not been completely restored since it was cut back in 2008. In a major step, $39 million was allocated to support universal six-day library service, extended hours and other improvements.
“By investing nearly $40 million to implement six-day service in every community library, we offer hope and opportunity while striking a blow against inequality,” said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), the majority leader and chairman of the Committee on Libraries and Cultural Affairs.
The budget will help establish a citywide bail fund to keep those accused of nonviolent, low-level offenses out of jail. The bail fund will provide those arrested with bail of up to $2,000, saving the city millions of dollars in incarceration costs.
“The New York City bail fund will keep New Yorkers out of Rikers who shouldn’t be there and will save millions of taxpayer dollars at the same time,” said Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest), chairman of the Courts and Legal Services Committee.
In education, extended resources will be supplied for Renewal schools, free breakfast and lunch for stand-alone middle schools, special education resources from K-12 and comprehensive expansion of physical education departments.
Other budget highlights include expansion of the Emergency Food Assistance Program and veteran services, major reforms for the aging population, new immigrant resources in health care and an extensive youth employment program.
Earlier this month, all three major rating agencies affirmed the city’s bond ratings, according to the mayor’s office.
In the executive budget, general reserves were boosted by $1 billion a year to provide much-needed protection in the event of a downturn; an extra $2.6 billion for the Retiree Health Benefit Trust Fund; and the first-ever capital stabilization reserve of $500 million to protect the city’s ability to invest in infrastructure and other needs, the office said.
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