Councilman Lew Fidler spent most of his time before Community Board 15 last night discussing the city budget, and his message was an unhappy one.
“I find myself using a few words I don’t use very often, ‘Mayor Bloomberg is right,'” Fidler told the board.
Fidler said the city was handed an unfair deal, with state lawmakers shorting New York City residents by millions of dollars, and leaving the mayor little option but to slash away.
He noted that we’re facing the largest education cut in state history, and that upstate municipalities are being subsidized by New York City tax monies through the municipal revenue share. With approximately half the state’s budget coming from New York City residents, the state eliminated our portion of the revenue share entirely – about $300 million – while cutting other municipalities by only 10 percent or so.
Worse still, more cuts are on the way. Fidler said the mayor’s preliminary budget is partially based on receiving an additional $600 million the city requested, but the state has only approved $400 million – meaning more cuts are on the way.
“We play here in the city of New York with real budgets, we have to balance the budget and we don’t do gimmicks,” Fidler said. “That means we have a very, very, very tough couple of months coming.”
For those in Fidler’s district, a budget priority survey will arrive in the mail soon, letting constituents tell the councilman which services are most important to them. He’ll be using this data to decide where to prioritize cuts as the budget continues to develop.
He also blasted lawmakers for failing to extend taxes on the wealthiest New Yorkers, meaning a loss in revenue that had been around in previous years. The city itself may only levy property taxes, but in light of foreclosure trends and other economic woes, Fidler said he and his colleagues won’t consider such a sweeping measure.
“The worst part of being in government is when you’re presented with 10 things that are being cut from the budget that helps New Yorkers – sometimes critically – and you only have money for five of them,” he said.