For the past five years, City Hall has cut from the budget because it says it can't afford those programs. Those cuts are based on complicated revenue forecasts done by City Hall and others. NY1's Courtney Gross filed the following report as part of NY1's series on the city budget.
If there's a budget deficit, every dollar counts. But how much cash the city has to play with really depends on who you ask.
City Hall's budget office says one thing, the City Council another and the comptroller something else. This year is no different, as there are at least four different projections of how much money the city really has.
The city's independent budget office predicts City Hall will have nearly $600 million more for the budget that starts next month. The comptroller says $100 million.
So why the difference?
"The Independent Budget Office and the city comptroller are more optimistic about economic activity in the next couple years than, say, the city budget office," said Maria Doulis with the Citizens Budget Commission.
In the past, that's been to make sure the city doesn't run out of cash.
"During the Giuliani administration, there was a fair amount of pressure on OMB to keep their forecasts low," said Ronnie Lowenstein of the Independent Budget Office. "It was seen as a way to help control spending."
That may still be true under Mayor Bloomberg but the difference is also about technical economic forecasts. The comptroller's office projected that the city will create more jobs, while the Independent Budget Office predicted the city will collect more corporate taxes.
"I think if you talk to 39 different economists, you are going to get 39 different forecasts," Lowenstein said. "If you are sitting where OMB is sitting, there is a real reason to be cautious."
In a $70 billion budget, a few hundred million dollars may seem like a rounding error but it can make the difference when contemplating cuts. 20 fire companies, worth about $43 million, are on the chopping block. Thousands of slots for day care and after school programs, worth $70 million, are also at stake.
"This is an issue that has been going on for a long time," Comptroller John Liu said. "I do believe it would be best to have the revenues estimated by an entity that is not part of the budget negotiations."
Despite the differences, the mayor and the City Council will still have to agree on a budget. They have to do so by June 30.