Under Current National Political Uncertainty, Council Budget Doubles Down on Efforts to Increase Protection for Vulnerable Communities and Boosts Savings for All New Yorkers

City Hall — New York City. Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Council Finance Chair Julissa Ferreras-Copeland and the New York City Council released the Council’s Fiscal Year 2018 Preliminary Budget Response. Given the national political uncertainty, the Council’s budget recommendations focus on protecting the City’s vulnerable communities and boosting savings for all New Yorkers through increased fiscal prudence, all without reducing services. The recommendations released by the Council are the culmination of dozens of hearings, hundreds of hours of public testimony and careful review and analysis from the Council.

Ranging from proposing an unprecedented expansion of Summer Youth Employment slots to providing additional funding for the New York Immigrant Family Unit Project (NYIFUP), the Council’s budget proposals call for a doubling down on the City’s efforts to strengthen New York City’s communities. Through efficient budgeting, the Council is also calling on the Administration to build up the City’s reserves, right-size the capital budget both by diminishing excess appropriations and expanding transparency, and increase the City’s ability to implement contingency measures in the face of uncertainty. Specifically, the Council’s recommendations for the upcoming fiscal year prioritize essential services, including:

  • Strengthening Communities in Uncertain Times
  • Building the City’s Infrastructure
  • Tackling Inequality and Advancing Fairness in Our City
  • Protecting and Investing in Vulnerable New Yorkers
  • Promoting Excellence and Facilitating Efficiency in Agency Operations
  • Sustaining and Improving Essential City Services
  • Baselining City Priorities
  • Improving Accountability and Oversight

“The City Council’s 2018 budget recommendations are the culmination of dozens of comprehensive budget hearings that have helped shape our understanding of the City’s priorities for the coming year. That is why, through fiscal prudence and efficient budgeting, the Council is focused on protecting the most vulnerable communities and building on our efforts to increase savings for all new Yorkers. From calling to expand the Summer Youth Employment Program to launching an aggressive Know Your Rights Campaign- our proposals reflect the real needs New Yorkers are facing under these uncertain times,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “I thank Finance Chair Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, the Budget Negotiation Team and all  my Council colleagues for their work to outline an agenda that continues to uplift New Yorkers across this City. I look forward to working with the Mayor’s administration to pass an Executive Budget that works for all New Yorkers.”

“The Mayor’s preliminary budget includes important investments in universal school crossing guards and 10 new Beacon programs, which are vital to support working families; however, as the Council has expressed, the FY18 budget must go further than ever to secure the stability of essential services into the future. It is crucial that we take this opportunity to improve our processes and maximize savings. To that end, we urge the Administration to establish a task force to develop best practices for the implementation of capital projects, which will help us stay on schedule and within the margins,” said Finance Chair Julissa Ferreras-Copeland. “The City should also grow the number of SYEP slots to 80,000 jobs and double those for the year-round Work, Learn, Grow Program, setting our youth on a path to career success as adults. Finally, as a sanctuary city with a plan, now is the time to right-size human services contracts so that our city’s non-profits may continue to support New Yorkers where they need it most, including providing free legal services for immigrant families and children facing deportation. I look forward to working with Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Mayor de Blasio to pass a budget that is accountable to all New Yorkers and brings forward our legacy as a city that is inclusive of all.”

Strengthening Communities in Uncertain Times

For many New Yorkers, there is significant concern about the effect of the Trump Administration on the lives of their families and communities. President Trump campaigned on a message that threatened the millions of immigrants who call New York City home and give our city its fundamental character. During its first months in office, the Trump Administration has issued an Executive Order that would put New York City’s federal law enforcement grants at risk, has proposed a “skinny” budget that would impose significant cuts to vital programs relied on by low- and middle-income New Yorkers, and has cut tens of millions of dollars from New York City Housing Authority. Additionally, despite the failure of the recent effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the City remains at risk of future action by the Trump Administration and the Republican Congress that could have devastating consequences for our public health system.

Although the overall impact of these federal actions remains uncertain, the Council’s response reflects our view that the City must be able to react to potential budgetary shocks from Trump Administration policies by ensuring that we are able to achieve long-term fiscal stability through budgeting wisely, while also making essential programs and services available to New Yorkers across the five boroughs. The response is an expression of our fundamental belief that our City’s diverse communities are the bedrock of what makes the city great, and that when our communities are strong, our City is strong. Accordingly, the Council recommends:

Building the City’s Infrastructure

The City’s Capital Plan lays out the Administration’s priorities for building and maintaining the City’s infrastructure, from roads and bridges to schools and parks. A robust and well-maintained infrastructure is critical for facilitating day to day operations, and how the City chooses to commit its capital dollars indicates its vision for the future. The proposals contained in the Council’s response reflect our concerns about the City’s capital planning, as well as putting forth our priorities for how capital funds should be allocated. Accordingly, the Council recommendations include:

  • Establishing a task force to develop best practices for the implementation of Capital Projects
  • Significantly reducing excess capital appropriations in the Capital Commitment Plan
  • Reflecting Rikers Island closure plan by defunding the New Jail Construction Project and expediting removal of adolescents from Rikers
  • Fast tracking New York City Housing Authority roof repairs by increasing allocation to $200 million per year
  • Improving DOE infrastructure to increase accessibility of schools, build essential school components and bring air conditioning to all NYC Public Schools
  • Building new Select Bus Service routes and expanding public funding of Citi Bikes

Tackling Inequality and Advancing Fairness in New York City

New York City is home to nearly over two million young people under 18 years of age, and the City operates a range of programs and services designed to provide them with the opportunity to grow and succeed in their communities. The City’s most vulnerable and at-risk youth must be given the tools that can help them transcend their difficult circumstances and become independent, successful adults. Over the past few years, the Council has been a strong advocate for youth opportunity, securing additional slots for the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) and making the program the largest it has ever been. As such, this year the Council’s response offers several proposals designed to benefit our City’s youth. It also includes recommendations aimed at addressing food insecurity and providing relief to homeowners, small businesses and veterans. Key recommendations include:

  • Expanding the Summer Youth Employment Program to 80,00  slots and more in outyears
  • Doubling Expand Work, Learn growth to serve 12,000 young people annually with an increase of $29.7 million in funds
  • Increasing support for Vulnerable Youth in the Summer Youth Employment Program to serve 5,000 vulnerable youth this summer
  • Eliminating school lunch fees
  • Offering tax relief to businesses by broadening the PIT credit given to UBT payers to cover small businesses
  • Limiting the commercial rent tax for all premises paying less than $500,000 in base rent
  • Implementing the Veterans Tax Exemption

Protecting and Investing in Vulnerable New Yorkers

New York is, at its heart, a city of immigrants. Nearly 40 percent of the City’s population were born elsewhere but have made New York City their home. The Council’s recognition of the essential contributions made by our diverse immigrant community has made New York City the national leader in addressing the needs of immigrants and foreign-born New Yorkers. This responsibility has become even more critical in the face of anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies targeting immigrant families from New York to California. To ensure New York remains a model city for immigrants, the Council’s budget response calls for enhancing programs and services supporting immigrant communities and our most vulnerable constituents. These include:

  • Institutionalizing the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project by providing a total of $12 million in funding
  • Establishing family resource centers for immigrants by including $1.9 million for 25 positions to establish and oversee these centers in all five boroughs
  • Including $1.4 million to launch a citywide Know Your Rights (KYR) campaign in order to facilitate legal representation, access public service benefits and raise awareness for the City’s immigrants.
  • Creating new shelters to support our homeless youth
  • Bolstering the NYPD Hate Crime Task Force

Promoting Excellence and Facilitating Efficiency in Agency Operations

For the City’s agencies to properly carry out their mission to serve New York City’s 8.5 million residents, they must receive adequate resources. This includes sufficient staffing and adequate funding for operational responsibilities to ensure programs and services are delivered in an equitable manner and with the quality New Yorkers rightfully expect. To this end, the Council’s recommendations include:

  • Right-size human services contracts to support the City’s frontline social service providers
  • Establishing a distinct unit of appropriation in the budget for the Office to Prevent Gun Violence
  • Enhancing funding for the five District Attorneys and their vital public safety programs
  • Expanding staff to support the City’s parks, the Business Integrity Commission, and the Office of Labor Policy and Standards

Sustaining and Improving Essential City Services

Everyday, New Yorkers of all ages rely on vital City services to provide them with critical supports that enhance their quality of life. Whether one is a student or a senior, these programs provide essential benefits, yet are too often inadequately funded to meet Citywide needs. This is why budget proposals include the following:

  • Significant investments in services and programs that will establish  this as “The Year of the Senior”
  • Ensuring Community School Sustainability
  • Bolstering the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) Services
  • Increasing Support for the Arts and Culture
  • Providing Firefighters with a second pair of boots to increase safety

Baselining City Priorities

Baseline budgeting uses current spending levels as the “baseline” for establishing future funding requirements, thus ensuring that vital City programs and services are sufficiently funded. When City priorities are not baselined, they are put at risk of being inadequately funded (if even funded at all). In considering which services the Administration should baseline, the City Council developed a methodology for selecting services not funded in Fiscal 2018. Based on this criteria, the Council calls on the Administration to baseline several programs to ensure their quality and continuity, providing peace of mind to those who benefit from them. Some baseline priorities include:

  • 5 Childcare Vouchers
  • Adult Literacy
  • Contraceptive Fund
  • CUNY Citizenship Now
  • Gender Equity Liaisons
  • Initiative to Combat Sexual Assault- Child Advocacy Center
  • New York Immigrant Family Unit Project
  • Restorative Justice
  • Senior Centers and Programs
  • Year Round Employment- Work Learn Grow

Improving Accountability and Oversight

The City Charter requires the Mayor to submit an annual Preliminary Mayor’s Management Report (PMMR) and Mayor’s Management Report (MMR), which provide the public with measureable indicators on the performance of city agencies and to assist the Council in conducting its oversight responsibilities. After conducting a thorough review of the structure and content of the MMR for Fiscal 2016 last fall and the Fiscal 2017 PMMR through the hearings in March, the Council identified several areas for improvement. These include failing to connect agency goals with the expenditures to achieve them, inadequately adjusting targeted performance goals to reflect actual performance, missing explanations of variances in many indicators, and failing to include examples of how the MMR is used by agencies to inform their actions. The Council recommends that the Administration include metrics in the PMMR and MMR that reflect principles of performance budgeting, allowing the Council and the public to evaluate the cost of specific programs against their outcomes.

The Council’s proposals, as laid out in this response, express the City Council’s view that in these challenging times, it is critical to budget in a way that is both cautious and compassionate. Accordingly, the Council recommends that:

  • The Fiscal 2018 Executive Budget, and ultimately the Adopted Budget, safeguard the City against the financial risks posed by the Trump Administration.
  • The budget must also signal that, no matter the climate in Washington, the City will continue to stand with and raise up all New Yorkers, providing them with essential programs and services that ensure access to opportunity and better their lives.

Full report available HERE