Photo by Demetrius Freeman/Mayoral Photography Office

The de Blasio administration kicked off budget season on Thursday with an $82.1 billion preliminary budget for the 2017 fiscal year. 

The FY2017 budget is nearly $5 billion larger than last year’s $77.7 billion budget, which the administration claims is due to the recognition of new federal grants and investments.

De Blasio tackled school overcrowding head-on, allocating $868 million for 11,800 new seats in packed schools. School overcrowding is a severe problem in a number of Queens neighborhoods, including Corona and Jackson Heights. This investment will bring the total number of new seats up to 44,000.

Other education investments include a $76.7 million investment in the Equity and Excellence plan to increase high school graduation rates and involvement in AP and SAT programs, and a $159 million investment in historically underfunded districts.

The mayor also announced a $53.7 million plan to combat homelessness, including shelter repair, stable housing solutions for 3/4 housing situations, job search assistance for more than 10,000 individuals, and new supportive housing units.

The budget also includes a number of allocations to already-existing health care, mental health and public safety initiatives, with $337 million to cover the diminishing federal dollars in the city’s public hospital system.

The de Blasio administration has put aside nearly $80 million for mental health programs aimed at training health professionals and police officers to properly deal with the mentally ill who might pose a threat to public safety, including $62 million for ThriveNYC and $17.4 million for NYC Safe.

Public safety initiatives include $5.3 million for increased city park security and $157 billion for traffic safety improvements and an expansion of Vision Zero. The budget also includes expanded FDNY ambulance tours in Manhattan and Queens, and an additional $3 million for the ShotSpotter program to pinpoint the location of gunfire, two programs aimed at improving police and ambulance emergency response times.

There is a significant investment of $58.3 million for additional training and security at Rikers Island, aimed at reforming the cycle of violence at the prison.

The administration also seeks a $15 minimum wage for all city employees and contracted social service workers, a move which would ultimately cost $115 million once fully implemented.

“This budget builds on the strong economic foundation we’ve created, reaffirming our commitment to responsible government that meets challenges head on,” de Blasio said. He also stressed the importance of investing in public safety and quality-of-life issues, while hedging the budget against future economic risks.

The city’s local economy is strong, with an additional 200,000 jobs added since January 2014 and an all-time high of 58.3 million visitors in 2015. The city has seen job growth, particularly in the outer boroughs, with a 3.9 percent uptick in Queens.

The $82.1 billion budget is balanced, with nearly $5 billion maintained in the city’s reserves to guard against future economic downturn.

The mayor and City Council must negotiate a final budget before June 30.


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