Under New Council Leadership, Council Budget Doubles Down on Accountability and Efforts to Provide Resources for all New Yorkers

City Hall, NY- Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Council Finance Chair Daniel Dromm, Capital Budget Subcommittee Chair Vanessa L. Gibson and the New York City Council released the Council’s Fiscal Year 2019 Preliminary Budget Response. This is the first budget response under the leadership of Speaker Johnson, newly appointed Finance Chair Daniel Dromm and Capital Budget Subcommittee Chair Vanessa L. Gibson. The budget recommendations focus on the Council’s vision of accountability and equal partnership with the Administration while at the same time providing resources to help all New Yorkers and secure the city’s social safety net. The Council’s recommendations are the culmination of hearings of 31 committee hearings, hundreds of hours of public testimony and the Council’s careful review and analysis.

Through thorough review, the Council is proposing spending measures that are focused and offset by identified revenue sources, savings, and agency reductions. This fiscally prudent plan will help the Council and the Administration achieve our shared goal of investing in programs and priorities that will help the most New Yorkers. In addition, in anticipation of underfunding by the Trump Administration and the significant impact of the unfunded mandates and shortfalls contained in the State of New York’s Fiscal 2019 Adopted Budget, the response highlights the need for the Administration to build the City’s reserves. The budget response is located online at www.council.nyc.gov and highlights of the response are detailed below.

“This budget response shows exactly where the Council’s priorities are – strengthening the social safety net, fighting for the middle class and handling taxpayers’ money responsibly. Everything in here is something the Council believes is worth fighting for and will ultimately make life better for all New Yorkers,” said Speaker Johnson. “This is my first budget as Speaker, and I couldn’t be prouder of my colleagues and staff who spent many hours, late nights and weekends preparing for this response.”

“Our Fiscal Year ’19 budget response is a true representation of the priorities of the NYC Council and our plan to move this city forward,” said NYC Council Finance Chair Daniel Dromm. “Contained within the response are calls for greater accountability. The Council will push the administration to provide greater transparency in the budget particularly as it relates to units of appropriation. Additionally, the Council would like to see an expansion of the Citywide Savings Program and would like to have a say in how the budget reductions from the savings program are re-appropriated. It has been difficult to track fringe benefit budgeting because it is across so many different agencies. The Council is asking that fringe benefit funding be held in centralized budgets. Finally, the Council is asking for better reconciliation of the year-end modified budget with actual spending. These measures will significantly improve the budget-making process.”

“A strong, clear capital budget strengthens our infrastructure and our future,” said Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson, Chair of the Subcommittee on Capital Budget. “As Chair of the Subcommittee on Capital Budget, I am proud that this budget response makes it clear that the days of front loading agency budgets and floating excessive appropriation carryovers are over. It’s time to hold agencies responsible for their spending and increase the efficiency, efficacy, and accountability of our capital dollars. Improving the capital process will help us get more projects online and done on time. I am also proud that our response calls for the strengthening of the essential city services that support children, seniors, vulnerable New Yorkers, and public safety. I thank Speaker Johnson for leading the Council in a thoughtful and precise budget process and look forward to working with the Speaker, Chair Dromm, and all my colleagues as our work on the budget continues”.

Proposals and recommendations in the FY19 Budget include:

Bolster the City’s Reserves
The City needs sufficient reserves in case of an economic downturn in order to avoid raising taxes or making service cuts. The Council wants to boost the reserves by $500 million.

Institute Fair Fares
The Administration should fund a program to provide half-fare MetroCards to individuals and families living below the poverty level so that approximately 800,000 low-income people could save up to $726 per year.

Make Much Needed Capital Investments in NYCHA
The Council calls on the Administration to provide $2.45 billion in capital funds to NYCHA to address ongoing critical needs and invest in housing development on NYCHA land. This investment will include $950 million for boiler repairs and heating equipment technology, $500 million towards the development of senior housing at NYCHA, and $1 billion annually to address ongoing capital needs.

Property Tax Relief and a Road to Reform
The Council is calling for a $400 property tax rebate to all homeowners for their primary residences if they make below $150,000. In addition, the Council is calling on the Administration to form a property tax reform commission to examine and propose long-term solutions to the system’s inequities. That commission will be held jointly with the Council.

Direct Education Dollars to Schools
All public schools should be brought to 100 percent of their Fair Student Funding level – which is the bulk of funding for public schools – so that the academic needs of the City’s 1.1 million public school students can be adequately supported and prioritized by the principals.

Prioritize Permanent Housing
In light of the high spending on homelessness, the Council is calling for a reassessment of homeless shelter spending and reallocation of funding to programs that support move outs from the shelter system, including the City Family Exit Plan Supplement, Living in Communities (LINC), and the construction of supportive housing.

Improve Accessibility and Security in Schools
Increase the number of accessible schools, with an emphasis on those used as polling sites, and install video surveillance security systems at all schools.

Present a Budget that Addresses Unfunded State Mandates

  • In the State budget adopted on April 1, the State imposed several unfunded mandates and shortfalls on the City that are not reflected in the budget and which must be included to present an accurate picture of the City’s financial plan:
    • MTA Subway Action Plan – $254 million
    • Raise the Age – $200 million
    • Close to Home – $31 million

Increase Transparency and Accountability in the Budget Presentation to Comply with Charter Mandates

  • Expense Budget
    • Stop the use of vague and overbroad units of appropriation
    • Provide additional information in the budget function analysis
  • Capital Budget
    • Increase the number of budget lines and make them more specific
    • Create a realistic capital commitment plan so that planned commitments are not front-loaded in the first year or two of the plan
    • Bring appropriations down to 15% over planned commitments
    • Encourage MWBE participation in the procurement process

For the full Preliminary Budget Response (PDF) click here.