New York, NY – Outlining a number of problematic proposed cuts, City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn and Finance Committee Chair Domenic M. Recchia Jr. today presented the Council’s response to Mayor Bloomberg’s Fiscal Year 2011 financial plan. The Council, recognizing the severe economic state the City is currently facing, noted the need to make difficult budgetary decisions, but also noted that any cuts must be reviewed in the most responsible and thoughtful process possible. Additionally, the Council expressed particular concern about cuts that will potentially impact the most vulnerable New Yorkers.
“We recognize the difficult times we face and the need to make cuts to help address next years budget gap,” said Speaker Quinn. “As we have done before the Council is prepared to act in a fiscally responsible manner. However, we must ensure these cuts do not fall disproportionately on the most vulnerable new Yorkers. We must look harder at how agencies are managing operations and where the City can find alternative savings in order to reach a fiscally responsible budget and meet the needs of New Yorkers.”
The Council detailed a number of significant concerns with proposed cuts included in the plan including:
• The Administration for Children’s Services – the Administration has proposed eliminating child welfare staff, reducing the Division of Child Protection’s headcount and conducting unspecified layoffs. Totaling a loss of more than 200 through direct layoffs and attrition, this staff reduction would further strain agency workers who are already overburdened and place children in the agency’s care at risk.
• Senior Services – the proposal to restructure case management at the Department for the Aging would limit a vital resource seniors depend on, the gateway to services that they turn to when they are in need of any assistance from finding food programs and delivery to health benefit programs.
• Youth Programs – proposals to reduce funding for a number of programs would negatively impact youth throughout the city who are at risk and in need. Cutting runaway homeless youth services, literacy and afterschool programs would leave thousands of youth without critical programs.
• Firehouses – the Council views the proposed nighttime closures of firehouses as an area of concern, and will be closely evaluating the consequences associated with the closures.
• Library Services – at a total of nearly $17 million, the administrations proposal to reduce subsidies provided to the city’s library system would result in a loss of programs and services that millions of New Yorkers depend on, including literacy, afterschool, job training and other programs.
As part of the Council’s response the Speaker and Council Member presented a number of alternative savings measures including:
• In-source Professional Development Contracts – these Department of Education underutilized and non-core contracts should be eliminated, which would result in a savings of $4 million. Instead, schools should rely on in-house coaches, teacher centers, superintendents and their network of staff for professional development.
• Non-core Evaluations – both the Human Resources Administration and the Department for Health and Mental Hygiene currently conduct programmatic evaluations that, given the current economic climate, are not critical services. Both of these evaluation programs should be postponed until the budget allows for their funding. Together, this would amount to a savings of more than $4 million.
• Sanitation Civil Enforcement Agents – the Department of Sanitation’s enforcement program area has increased by 30 percent since FY 2008, but revenue from citations has not increased at a similar rate. The elimination of this program would save nearly $5 million.
• Department of Sanitation Public Information – the majority of information people search for regarding the agency is done through 311 or the department’s website. Cutting the public information budget of $2 million would not significantly impair New Yorkers’ ability to obtain necessary information.
• Department of Transportation Staffing – headcount within the department’s inspection and quality assurance, meter collection and vehicle maintenance staff has increased in recent years. Eliminating positions within each of these programs is a potential source of approximately $3 million in savings.
“We have a budget gap, and we need to close it. We’re going to have to make a lot of tough decisions in the next few months, but as always, our priority will be to ensure that we spend and cut responsibly, without compromising public safety or harming our vulnerable populations,” said Finance Committee Chair Domenic M. Recchia, Jr. “That being said, I believe eliminating nearly $3 million from the district attorneys’ budget is a mistake. It will deprive them of the support they need to fight crime, treat drug addiction and provide domestic violence assistance, among other important issues. This is one of the issues we need to address moving forward.”
Over the next several weeks, the City Council will be conducting hearings and closely reviewing on the proposals included in the November plan.