Since March, the City Council has held hundreds of hours of hearings, received thousands of letters and e-mails, and fielded countless phone calls from New Yorkers who are concerned about the future of New York City.

We share many of their concerns, and this Council is committed to protecting core services for the people of New York City – and to doing so in a fiscally responsible way. We recognize that we cannot fund these important services if we do not also find additional savings and cutbacks within the budget. With that in mind, the Council has presented a number of budget proposals that would yield additional savings in the FY12 budget.

The two most important components of that plan are cutting the growth of the contract budget, as well as alternative cuts and savings in city agencies, including the Department of Education.

The city’s contract budget is an area that must be thoroughly examined. From the presentation of the FY12 Preliminary Budget, to the release of the FY12 Executive Budget three months later, the contract budget swelled by $110 million, to $10.35 billion. In the Department for Small Business Services alone, the contract services budget grew by more than $18 million, a 41 percent increase.

We do not dispute the appropriateness of contracting out service delivery in many areas. However, we do find it troubling that we have not received answers to the many questions we have posed regarding the specifics of nearly $2 billion in contract services. In a year in which we face the prospect of thousands of layoffs and dramatic reductions in services, we cannot allow such a large area of spending to escape the same rigorous review that we apply to all areas of City spending.

A mere 5 percent cut in the following areas of the contract budget alone would result in $50 million in savings – more than enough to keep all 20 fire companies open:

• $514 million in unspecified “Contractual Services – General”
• $290 million for “Data Processing Equipment” and “Computer Consultants”
• $101 million for “Legal Services”
• $134 million for “Professional Services – Other”

Additionally, the Council believes savings can be found in the following agencies, with the following actions:

Program Savings
Defer or cut Center for Economic Opportunity evaluations (HRA) $2.2 million
Defund PlaNYC 2030 air quality study (DOHMH) $2.6 million
Reduce meter collection staffing (DOT) $2.3 million
Eliminate vehicle maintenance night shift schedule (DOT) $325,000
Reduce Central Park Conservancy subsidy (DPR) $1 million
Insource elevator inspections (DOB) $733,000
Eliminate additional “street cutting” positions (DOT) $559,000
Reduce strategic planning group division (HPD) $1.1 million
Reduce research and policy unit (HPD) $1.1 million
Eliminate public information budget (DSNY) $2 million
Eliminate PlaNYC parks project (DPR) $4.4 million

We have also presented more than $75 million in alternative proposals in the Department of Education, which we believe will help stave off teacher layoffs. This Council counts the prevention of these layoffs as a top priority.

Despite the challenges of closing the city’s deficit, the Council is committed to reaching an on-time, balanced budget. We will continue to negotiate with the administration through the coming weeks, during which we will remain focused on both maintaining fiscal responsibility, and protecting core services for New Yorkers.