In Mayor Michael Bloomberg's new budget, a partial Wall Street recovery means $2 billion more in tax revenues for the city, but city schools in particularly are walloped due to less money from Albany and Washington. NY1's Josh Robin filed the following report.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg insisted during his annual budget address on Thursday that he has a plan to finish off the city's $2.1 billion deficit without tax increases, while keeping schools as a priority.
The mayor peppered his speech with statements like, "We're going to make sure that we invest in our children," "Nobody should think for a second that we are not committed to education," and "What services do we absolutely have to have to give our children our future?"
Yet that future promises more crowded classrooms. Less state aid means reductions in the teaching force, as Bloomberg announced that 4,666 teachers will be laid off, and an additional 1,500 positions will be cut through attrition. Teacher rolls are sliced almost 8 percent.
The United Federation of Teachers is questioning the necessity of the layoffs, saying since last month the city claims to have $1 billion more in its budget but still wants to lay off the same amount of teachers.
"Class sizes are skyrocketing across the city, and that has a direct harmful impact upon students education," said UFT President Michael Mulgrew.
For the mayor, it is a question of budget priorities that stem from expected cuts in state and federal aid and is not a political move.
"There's just a limit to how much money you can spend on any one thing. Education is our number one priority. That doesn't mean we're going to take all the money from the police department and give it to education," said Bloomberg.
Amid a budget gap of nearly $5 billion over four years, and despite better-than-expected tax rolls, the mayor is targeting plenty of other segments of the city.
About 1,000 other city employees will lose their jobs. About 40 percent of senior centers could shutter and 20 fire companies would be closed.
Also, 16,600 child care slots, about 15 percent of the total, will be gone.
Some City Council members were preparing to battle to keep those services.
"We've got a fight on our hands and that this budget is going to be balanced on the backs of poor people and that the mayor has basically ruled out any progressive taxes and taxing Wall Street and that not all of us are going to share the pain," said Brooklyn Councilwoman Letitia James.
This plan is dependent on uncertain contributions from Albany and from retired firefighters and police officers. If the city doesn't get that $600 million, the mayor says there will have to be more cuts.
City Hall officials say the shortfalls of billions of dollars from Washington and Albany are the source of the pain.
Leaders of the City Council seem to agree, even as they test their bonds with their fellow Democrat, Governor Cuomo.
"We are still reeling from the impacts of the potential state cuts, and myself and my colleagues, we are going to do as much as we can with Mayor Bloomberg," said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.
Cuomo would only say he looks forward to working with Bloomberg, and added that all sides need to cooperate.
In some senses, both Bloomberg and Cuomo have their hands tied by the ever-growing cost of pensions and health care for public employees. The city contribution is projected to be almost 500 percent higher than it was 10 years ago.
The budget is due June 30.