Monday, December 22, 2014

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Mayor's Final Budget Balanced Despite State Funding Dent

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Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled the last city budget of his administration Tuesday and said it was hit hard by the recent failed agreement on a teacher evaluation system.

While he said the budget will be balanced, Bloomberg added the city is set to lose millions more in state funding over the next couple of years because of the teacher evaluation fallout.

The mayor said the city will lose about $724 million in state education aid over the next two years, and it risks losing another $1 billion on top of that in the future.

Bloomberg said that lack of funding means about 2,500 teaching positions will disappear through attrition. There will also have to be a cut in after-school programs, and the city will spend $67 million less on school supplies.

The mayor has refused to sign off on a teacher evaluation agreement that sunsets before poor performing teachers can be removed.

"We have to get the best teachers we can find in front of the classroom and give them the support that they need," Bloomberg said.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said City Hall and the union need to get back in the negotiating room. If there is no deal, then she said the council will fight to keep those teaching jobs.

"I'm simply not going to stand by and allow us to lay off teachers or have attrition rates that are unusually high," Quinn said. "We're not going to go there because the council, under my leadership, has never let us go there, and it's not going to start now.

The mayor has not said there will be a need for teacher layoffs.

Since he took office in 2002, the mayor said the city has shouldered a greater burden of education costs compared to the state.

He said the city has invested more than an additional $8 billion per year in the school system.

"It's an increase in the last 11 years of 132 percent. So anybody that says that we don't take education seriously, I don't think there's a ways you could possibly demonstrate it more than those numbers," Bloomberg said. "And that's why we don't lose teachers anymore to Nassau County, that's why we do deliver the books on time, that's why our school system keeps getting better."

The budget risks, though, do not stop with education. The city is assuming that it will receive $600 million next year from the sale of new taxi medallions, but the program that would allow for that sale is tied up in court.

"I am optimistic that we will win the court case," Bloomberg said.

Twenty fire companies are back on the chopping block. as well. They were threatened with closure last year, but the council negotiated to keep them open.

Bloomberg also noted Hurricane Sandy cost the city $4.5 billion in emergency public services and damages.

He expects the costs to be covered by federal funding.

The mayor's budget proposal is balanced, but the next fiscal year has a projected budget deficit of $2.4 billion.

Budget negotiations with the City Council will ramp up in the spring. A final budget deal is due by the end of June. ClientIP:, UserAgent: CCBot/2.0 ( Profile: TWCSAMLSP