By Sadef Ali Kully
While the state and city go back and forth over who will foot the bill for various items, the borough’s preliminary budget meeting held last week at Borough Hall in Kew Gardens concluded Queens needs more money from the city.
Last month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo shifted the responsibility for $485 million a year in funding for senior CUNY colleges—such as York College and Queens College—as well as $180 million in Medicaid costs to the city budget. But the city and state will eventually enter talks to come to agreeable terms, according to city and state sources.
Borough President Melinda Katz, City Council members and community board chairs held a meeting Feb. 9 to go over the city’s budget for Queens with Borough Hall budget staff.
The city budget of $82.1 billion for the borough includes funding for the borough president’s office, community boards, the expansion of city services across the borough, the Queens Public Library and police and fire department expansions, among other priorities.
“We get the least amount of money. but we really make the most of our services and stretch our dollars,” said Richard Lee, budget director at Queens Borough Hall. He pointed out the borough gets the smallest amount of money for its overall budget when compared with other boroughs. And Queens has the second largest population after Brooklyn in the city.
Lee said that while Queens has the second-largest population in the city, under the city’s affordable housing plan, only 1,706 of the city’s 40,204 affordable housing units were in the borough.
Katz said in order for city services to reach the borough’s rapidly growing population, the budget would need to increase.
“People want to come here and live here and we have to find a way to keep up with that, and that is what we hope to do,” she said.
The budget presentation focused on pressing concerns for community board chairs and City Council members, such as increasing services for senior centers, raising the number of child-care and Head Start sites, increasing funds for the summer youth employment program, expanding schools to address overcrowding, creating more affordable housing, increasing funding for cultural organizations and raising more funds to hire park enforcement patrol officers as well as supporting other park services.
In a letter on the budget to the mayor’s office, City Council and city Office of Management and Budget, Katz also addressed rising rent costs, overcrowding in schools and services for the growing populations of seniors and new immigrants across the city.
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