Mayor Michael Bloomberg presented his annual budget proposals last Thursday. The budget outlined by the mayor contains cutbacks that, while not as harsh as in previous years, include controversial fire company closures as well as the removal of thousands of childcare slots.
While the $68.7 billion spending plan may come as a disappointment for many who had hoped for increases, it does not include additional teacher layoffs or further cuts from those announced last fall, writes DNAinfo.
“It has no tax increases, no layoffs of teachers or uniformed workers, and no walking away from our long-term investments,” said the mayor, who credited prudent fiscal planning for avoiding more draconian cuts.
The administration also got a lifeline from the city’s Independent Actuary’s office, which has recommended decreasing the rate of return for the city’s pension investment fund from 8 to 7 percent. But instead of forcing the city to cover the difference at once, the actuary proposed a plan that would spread the cost over 22 years, saving $400 million dollars per year in previously anticipated costs.
While the recommendation appears to be a hail mary for the coming year, Bloomberg, who sounded somewhat uneasy with the plan, warned the city wasn’t off the hook.
“That is an obligation we have just transferred to our children,” he said.
Bloomberg also pointed to rising pension costs as a dire threat to the city’s finances, warning it has a “ticking time bomb” on its hands.
The city’s pension rate has increased nearly 500 percent over the past decade, he said, noting that the cost of paying pensions for the city’s uniformed workers and teachers for the first time will exceed the compensation being paid to current employees.
“We just don’t have much time left to fix the problem,” the mayor said, warning that the 2014 budget is especially worrisome, with an expected gap of $3 billion between projected expenses and revenues, and no rainy-day fund left to pay the bills.
Critics of the mayor’s budget, however, point to the targets of the proposed cuts – such as fire houses, after-school and daycare programs – as disconcerting.
“Why throw so many kids overboard? It makes no sense,” said Public Advocate and presumed mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio. “It’s inexplicable to me that they’re singling them out in this manner,” he said, calling it a “double-whammy” for low-income families struggling to make ends meet and raise children.
Some, such as Council Speaker Christine Quinn, said the budget in its current form relies too much on fines for increasing income.
“We shouldn’t be harassing business and property owners with frivolous violations to bring in more revenue,” she said.