NEW YORK — After a massive infusion of federal stimulus funding, Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday proposed the final budget of his mayoralty — and it is the most expensive in the city’s history.
“The theme of course is a recovery for all of us. This is what we are focused on: a recovery that reached every neighborhood, every New Yorker; not just brings us back, but brings us back better, fairer, stronger,” the mayor said Monday afternoon in his budget proposal unveiling.
The fiscal plan, which the mayor is calling the “recovery budget," is a record-breaking $98.6 billion. It relies on about $14.2 billion in federal aid, including $5.9 billion in direct local aid and another $7 billion in federal education funding.
“We have a radical investment in working families," de Blasio said. "We’ve never seen anything like this in generations in this city, focusing on working people, on families, on kids, in ways that we just havent even imagined in so many years.”
The budget fully funds free universal 3-K for all New York City three-year-olds, which should be completely rolled out by September 2023. It invests hundreds of millions of dollars in more than 1,000 schools, fully funding them under the “fair student funding formula” worked out in the state budget deal earlier this month. And there is another $500 million for the “intensive academic recovery for every student."
“Every single three-year-old will have a seat for free in all of New York City by September 2023," de Blasio said. "So for the children born in 2020, that very, very tough year we went through together — when they are three years old in 2023, every single one of them will be guaranteed free, safe, high-quality early education, 3-K for all.”
In some cases, the new fiscal plan reverses the cuts in last year’s budget, which was sliced in the midst of the economic fallout from the pandemic. For instance, $9 million will go to restoring litter basket collection on city streets, and another $33 million will go to resuming organics collection and expanding recycling.
The budget includes funding for a new program to provide home visits for first-time parents, and another $50 million for the city’s public health corps, which is a team of community-based public health workers. It also includes $112 million for the city’s new mental health crisis response teams, in an effort to take the initiative citywide. Those teams, which include EMS and social workers, respond to non-violent mental health emergencies instead of the NYPD.
As of Monday morning, it was unclear whether the NYPD’s budget would be held harmless this year after it became a major dispute in last year’s budget negotiations. According to an advance copy of the mayor’s budget presentation, the spending plan will include millions of dollars in anti-violence initiatives, including an expansion of the city’s "Saturday Night Lights" program.
One thing is clear: the mayor is spending the vast majority of the federal stimulus funds that the city received earlier this year. That cash must be spent by 2024. That means the next mayor will be forced to decide whether to revise how de Blasio has allocated that cash (would that person cancel universal 3-K, for instance). A spokesperson for the de Blasio administration noted some of the federal cash has been put in reserves. The mayor added $1.8 billion to the city’s budget reserves, bringing the total to $4.59 billion. The projected budget gap for the next fiscal year, after the mayor leaves office, is almost $4 billion.
It’s a lot of spending that advocates were quick to question.
“We have a runway to restructure government so we can be stable in the future, and this budget does nothing about it and just leaves the fiscal problems for the next mayor to solve tomorrow when they should start to be solved today,” said Andrew Rein of the Citizens Budget Commission.
The mayor says he is investing in the city’s future, which some in the City Council appear to agree with.
“I think it is a lot of money, but a lot of money is coming from the feds,” Queens Democratic Councilman Daniel Dromm said. “But the funding and the spending that the mayor is doing is stuff that the city needs, and I think in general Council members will be happy with this executive budget."
The mayor’s budget presentation is the official start of budget negotiations with the City Council. The budget is due at the end of June.
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