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Mayor Michael Bloomberg: February 2011 Archives

February 2011 Archives

Putting together New York City’s budget is a complex puzzle, especially in these economically challenging times. When we released our preliminary budget for the next fiscal year, which starts July 1st, we put a lot of the pieces to the puzzle in place. As they have for the past three years, city agencies will continue to cut expenses. We also made it clear that we won’t impose any new taxes on New Yorkers. 

Now to complete the puzzle, and close a projected $600 million gap between our revenues and expenses, we also need help from Albany. We’re well aware that state government has huge budget headaches of its own. We’re willing to do our share to help – as long as it’s a fair share. So we’re asking Albany to take $600 million worth of actions that treat our city justly, and that also free us from budget burdens we can’t afford any more.

It’s a three-part plan. The first involves what’s called “revenue sharing,” which are tax funds that Albany returns to local governments each year. This year, revenue sharing is being cut for every other city and town by 2 percent; but for the second straight year, New York City is being cut 100 percent. That’s unfair on the face of it, especially given how much tax money city residents send to Albany. Our solution: Share the burden fairly. Cut everyone by a uniform one-third.  That’ll return $200 million in revenue to our city, without hurting the state’s bottom line at all.

Second, we’re also asking for relief from a state requirement that we make annual $12,000 payments, over and above pensions, to certain retired city employees. Simple and moderate reforms to this expensive mandate would save city taxpayers $200 million in our next budget, and also wouldn’t cost the state a penny.

Third, Albany should restore $200 million of its roughly $1.4 billion planned cut in our education aid. That extra money is an all-important investment in the children who are the future of our city and state. It also will reaffirm the state’s commitment to providing a fair share of funding for our city’s public schools.  Because consider this: To make up for the federal and state funds we’re losing, over the past eight months we’ve put over $1.8 billion more in city tax dollars into our schools.  So the teacher layoffs that are unfortunately included in our budget are not the result of city under-funding of our schools.

We’ve begun talking to state leaders about the three steps I’ve just described. We’re hopeful that, working with them, we can bring them about. The alternative would mean balancing the city’s budget with new, additional cuts to city services.

That would be painful, and it could well be counter-productive to a city economy that fuels our entire region. Over the past three years, we’ve already cut $5.2 billion in city spending. So far, we’ve managed without unduly harming essential services. Combined with the surpluses we wisely accumulated when the economy was strong, that’s helped us ride out the national recession. Now our economy is recovering, and our tax revenues are running ahead of what we expected. That’s good news, but it’s not enough to solve our budget puzzle alone. The missing pieces are state actions that give New York City the fairness and freedom we need to manage our affairs.

Preparing For a Brighter Future

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View of East River and Мidtown Manhattan Skyli...
We’re in an era where government resources are stretched very thin, and we are cutting budgets across the board. But last week we showed that we’re still moving ahead on projects to grow our economy and improve the futures of more of our public school students. 

Affordable housing, great schools, good mass transit access, and beautiful parks and green spaces — that’s the recipe for keeping middle-class families in New York City. Last Wednesday we kicked off a project that combines all of those elements. We selected a development team to build the first phase of Hunter’s Point South in Queens. Hunter’s Point South is the largest middle-class housing development to be built in our city since the 1970s. It will include thousands of new affordable apartments, 11 acres of waterfront parkland, shops and restaurants, and a new environmentally friendly public school that will accommodate more than 1,000 students in the middle and high school grades. All of this development is taking place on an abandoned stretch of once-industrial waterfront that borders Long Island City, one of the fastest-growing neighborhoods in the city.

Starting this spring, this area and many communities in North and South Brooklyn will be served by expanded East River ferry service that will provide direct links to Wall Street and Midtown Manhattan, as well as Governors Island. Soon, thousands of teachers, nurses, police officers, and other middle-class families will be living in affordable apartments in Hunter’s Point South, taking the ferry to work, and coming home to watch the sun set over the city skyline.  

In March, the city will begin building the Hunter’s Point South infrastructure, including its sewers and roadways. This summer, we’ll start constructing the first waterfront park. Next summer, the first residential buildings will start going up. And the new school there should be ready to welcome its first class of students in the fall of 2013. 

We’re working hard to build schools for the 21st century and raise standards in our classrooms. But our children will not benefit from that work unless they show up to class. Sadly, far too many of our students miss too much school. Last August, just before the beginning of the current school year, we kicked off an ambitious new effort to reduce such chronic absenteeism. We called it: Every Student, Every Day. Over the past six months, we’ve tried out a range of new strategies designed to prevent chronic absences. The results have been very encouraging, and last week we launched a new effort called Wake Up! NYC.

As part of Wake-Up! NYC, this month, thousands of students who have missed at least 10 days of class this school year will begin receiving automated phone calls from celebrities such as Magic Johnson, Jose Reyes, and Trey Songs. We hope that students and their parents will heed the advice of these celebrities who will remind them that going to class is the first step to a brighter future.

A Fair Budget For New York City

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Earlier this month, Governor Cuomo presented his first preliminary budget for New York State. The budget problems he’s inherited are complex, and he’s come up with some very bold and innovative ways to resolve them. We applaud the fresh ideas the governor is bringing to State government, and we fully support his efforts to reduce state spending.

I recently went to Albany to testify before committees in the State Senate and Assembly and explain to them how the budget the Governor presented last Tuesday will affect New York City. I told the legislature which of the governor’s proposals we support – and there are many – and I also urged them to make some key changes. There are two main elements that we’d like the governor and the legislature to reconsider. 

First, we’d like to make sure that New York City taxpayers are treated equitably. We knew this year’s budget would include cuts, and we are prepared to share in the pain. But we shouldn’t have to absorb more of the pain than the state’s other residents – especially since the city provides the bulk of the state’s revenue. Yet the governor’s budget will cut aid to other localities by 2 percent, while New York City’s funding was cut by 100 percent. That will take away $300 million we could use to avoid some of the layoffs we are facing, including in our schools. 

The second concern we have with the governor’s preliminary budget is that it doesn’t address some of the major structural issues that are driving up our costs every year. On the campaign trail, the governor promised to help eliminate some of the unfunded mandates that make it impossible for cities like ours to contain costs. In some cases that will mean reining in the rising pension costs that will force us to make deep cuts to services. In other cases, it will mean amending laws and rules to free the city’s hands and allow us to make changes to the way we purchase goods and services and hire and manage employees. 

For example, if we do have to lay off teachers this year, we should be able to make decisions based on merit and performance. But right now, state law says we must lay off teachers based solely on the number of years they’ve logged on the job, not how hard they’re working or how well they’re performing. That would be unfair to teachers – and devastating to our kids.

If we don’t deal with these and other structural problems this year, they will only get worse next year, and every year after that. And we’ll feel the pain in every area of city life – in our schools, our health system, and our social services.

We cannot let that happen. Not after all the work we’ve done to pull our city out of the national recession faster and stronger than the rest of the country. That’s the message I’m bringing to Albany as I remind our State leaders that 8.4 million New Yorkers are counting on them to realize the bold vision Governor Cuomo has outlined for a strong, healthy, and financially stable New York State.

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