Combined measures will add over $650 million in revenue, allowing the City to maintain core services in public safety and education
CITY HALL – Speaker Christine C. Quinn, together with Finance Committee Chair David Weprin, Black, Latino and Asian Caucus Co-Chairs Robert Jackson and Maria del Carmen Arroyo, Majority Leader Joel Rivera, Majority Whip Inez Dickens and Deputy Majority Leader Leroy Comrie, announced that the Council will vote on a revenue enhancement package that will include rescinding the 7% property tax reduction and enacting a temporary 0.875% hotel tax increase. Combined, the two bills will bring in an over $650 million in additional revenue at a time when the City faces a $4 billon shortfall.
The average property tax increase citywide for a single family home will be $118. For co-ops with 10 or more units in the building, the average citywide increase will be $162
The Council also announced that the Administration has agreed to send to homeowners the $400 property tax rebate checks, a longstanding Council priority, in addition to restoring $20 million to projects that were slated for cuts in the Mayor’s November financial plan. These programs will be maintained thanks to the Council’s alternative spending reductions.
As a result of the comprehensive revenue enhancement package, the City will be able to hire 250 police cadets in both the January and July classes, negating the call in the November financial plan to eliminate the classes entirely.
“The economic crisis has forced all of us in government to reassess our priorities, so that we can balance the budget in the face of record revenue shortfalls,” said Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “By taking the responsible approach today, we can generate nearly three quarters of a billon dollars, money that will go to funding NYPD’s cadet classes, to employment programs and foreclosure prevention programs. These investments stand in stark contrast to decisions made in the wake of the fiscal crisis of 1975 when the City was forced to reduce the size of the police force by 20%.”
Some of the restorations to the Mayor’s November plan include:
CUNY & Community Colleges – This restoration protects local community colleges and the CUNY system, both of which faced cuts of $2.5 million dollars to student services and research, among other areas.
Protecting Child Protective Services – The Mayor’s plan would have cut $3.7 million in the Administration for Children’s Services child protective services unit, eliminating 127 caseworkers. The Council’s move protects the staffing in this critical area.
Elder Abuse Prevention – Preserves full funding for all elder abuse prevention contracts.
Employment Services – The November Plan proposed a reduction of $2 million for adult basic education, literacy services, and training vouchers. Programs that would have been affected include the Begin Program and the Welfare to Work Program.
A number of the Council’s alternative cuts were included in the final budget modification. These reductions reflect common sense solutions requiring agencies to do more with less, eliminate redundancies and maximize efficiencies. They include the elimination of the capital scoping project, which would have hired consultants to come up with estimates for capital projects at a cost of $13 million. The Council’s proposal will save taxpayer dollars by having in-house staff do that work.
The Council also found savings by lowering the estimate for fuel expenses in light of the drop in gas, a move that saves $3.015 million, and in cutting overestimates in maintenance to the Emergency Communications Transformation Project, which is not yet operational and therefore requires no maintenance. The cut will have no effect on 911 service and will save $4.2 million.
“By making tough decisions today, we can keep our City moving forward as we make our way through this economic crisis,” said Finance Committee Chair David Weprin. “If we want to keep cops on our streets and teachers in our classroom, we have to make the necessary sacrifice for the good of our entire city.”
In an effort to give working families a chance to deal with the new tax obligations, the property tax bill allows properties with an assessed value of $250,000 or less to pay on a quarterly basis rather than semi-annually. Previously, only properties under $80,000 were allowed to pay quarterly. In addition, the bill also provides a one-time 15 day grace period for the January property tax payment for properties valued at $250,000 or less.
“From the day the Mayor announced his November Financial Plan, the Council has been looking for ways to cut spending that wouldn’t affect core services,” said Black, Latino and Asian Caucus Co-Chair Robert Jackson. “Today, we’re voting on a package that will help steer our city through this economic downturn in a way that will have a minimum impact on our most vulnerable residents.”
Raising the hotel tax from 5% to %5.875 will increase revenue by over $80 million over the next two fiscal years. The increased cost per room will average only $2.63 a night. The provision will expire in November of 2011.
“Despite our best planning efforts, we could never have anticipated the severity of the current fiscal crisis,” said Black, Latino and Asian Caucus Co-Chair Maria del Carmen-Arroyo. “Today, we’re taking steps to eliminate shortfalls in our budget that will responsibly reduce spending and minimize impact on core services.”
“We all are making difficult decisions,” said Majority Leader Joel Rivera, “but this is the time to make important sacrifices.”
“These are painful economic times, but we are committed to protecting core services,” said Majority Whip Inez Dickens. “I am please that we were able to restore $20 million to the mayor’s financial plan, money that will that will protect our most vulnerable citizens. And for homeowners too, help is way.”
“I want to applaud the Speaker and my colleagues for their leadership during this protracted budget negotiation with the Administration,” stated Deputy Majority Leader Leroy Comrie. “Far too many residents in my district are fighting to stave off foreclosure and having to decide between buying food and presents or paying their water bill. The issuance of the property tax rebate will provide much-needed relief for those New Yorkers who are facing stark choices in the aftermath of this national recession.”