Budget, needs requests streamlined for community boards

By Tom Momberg

The Department of City Planning presented improvements to the way that community district needs and budget requests are submitted at the Queens Borough Board meeting Monday. The new process for submitting draft forms raised concerns among community boards, however.

A new online form unveiled by City Planning is intended to streamline the application process for both needs and budget requests. About 280 common requests to city agencies are listed on the form.

Sarah Goldwyn, director of planning coordination for the Department of City Planning, said the new system is intended to simplify the process, combining two forms into one that is immediately visible by the corresponding agency for each request.

“We are working to simplify the community district needs statements and budget request production process for community boards,” Goldwyn said. “We know these are often labor-intensive exercises with a lot of complexities.”

Needs statements are traditionally collected in August, but the new requests, while also submitted in August, would be in draft form rather than being final. Goldwyn said the changes would leave time for the borough president to evaluate priorities and use the borough budget consultations in September and October to help prioritize needs and budget requests.

“The short of it is: What you hit send on in August is not final, it’s your draft submission,” Goldwyn said.

“That does not sound right … by submitting it to you as a draft, that is against the definition of the word” Borough President Melinda Katz responded. “I think that’s a discussion we need to have.”

Goldwyn said draft submissions would not be prioritized, but the borough president could look at those needs and use the online tools to prioritize them.

But community board leaders expressed concerns that draft form submissions should be organized collectively before the Office of Management and Budget or city agencies can see requests.

“We all coordinate very well as a borough, and we like to set standards and priorities as a borough,” Katz said. “The community boards like to discuss amongst themselves as well, as to the types of priorities they are putting in. A lot of my capital budget is based on what the community boards tell me they need.”

Goldwyn gave a full presentation at a borough cabinet meeting Tuesday, but she agreed to meet with Katz to make the new system work more efficiently within the borough.

Reach reporter Tom Momberg by e-mail at tmomberg@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.