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Teachers, Firehouses On Chopping Block As Bloomberg Presents 2012 Budget

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City agencies across the board will be feeling the pinch under Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposed $65.5 billion budget for the fiscal year 2012.

In the plan unveiled Friday at City Hall, the news was especially rough for city schools, which face the loss of about 6,000 teachers through layoffs and attrition.

Bloomberg placed much of the blame on Albany, both for cutting funding to the city and for failing to act on pension reform and the "Last In, First Out" law that mandates which teachers can be let go based on performance, not seniority.

“We are in better shape than most cities for two prime reasons: we've made smart investments in our economy and we budgeted in a responsible way that prepared us for the inevitable downturn in the national economy,” Bloomberg said Friday. "But we are not an island. We are not immune to the realities in Albany and Washington."

Governor Andrew Cuomo has repeatedly said cuts in his budget are necessary to balance the state's books.

"I didn't make the decision to cut back $850 million of federal monies for education," Bloomberg said. "I didn't make the decision to cut back $812 million of state money for education. Those were things that were forced on us."

Twenty fire companies are also on the chopping block. They've been there before, but the City Council has helped restore funding in the past to keep them open. The city's fire commissioner is warning that there will be consequences if the cut goes through.

"Our operations throughout the city will be severely impacted," Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano said of the cuts. "Our response times will increase.

Pressed about the fire closures on Friday, the mayor opened up.

"I am worried about everything," he said. "I don't know of any city service that this city provides that I think is a waste of money."

There is some good news though: Proposed cuts to subsidized care for 16,000 city kids
has been restored for at least one more year, despite a state cut to social services.

The budget plan calls for no tax increases – but there are plans to generate new revenues. The city is looking to increase membership fees at recreation centers and install 20 new red light cameras. Parking rates would also go up throughout the five boroughs.

Critics immediately pounced on the mayor.

"The reality is that the mayor of the city of New York has, unfortunately, a horrible relationship with Albany politics," said Brooklyn City Councilmember Letitia James. "He didn't play it right. And as a result of that, we bear the burden."

"This is a political document to justify going after the vulnerable people in this city," said Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.

City council members say they will take aim at the city's spending on outside contractors, and look for savings there.

The budget now goes to the City Council for consideration.

A final budget deal is due by the end of June for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

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