Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled last Thursday his $68.7 billion budget — a spending plan that has no tax increases or calls for teachers and uniformed city workers to lose their jobs.
Bloomberg said “deficit closing actions” the city has undertaken in the last five years led to $6 billion in savings that was used to fund this year’s budget.
“Cities across the country have struggled to keep their heads above water — laying off teachers, police officers or firefighters with a few even having to declare bankruptcy,” the mayor said. “We’ve avoided these painful steps because we spent years planning ahead, made government more efficient and saved for a rainy day.”
At a news conference after his presentation, Bloomberg said no teachers or uniformed city employees would be laid off “unless something dramatic happens.”
But the mayor said he did not foresee anything happening.
The budget, which is only a proposal and needs to be approved by the City Council, includes cuts to almost every city service except education, where Bloomberg proposes a budget increase.
Bloomberg’s plan sets the city’s spending for the upcoming fiscal year that begins July 1.
“Nobody should think we’re out of the woodwork, but on the other hand, nobody should think that we haven’t made” progress, Bloomberg said. “I think it is a responsible budget. I think it is a realistic budget.”
Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), chairwoman of the Council Fire Committee, criticized the spending plan for proposing to close 20 fire companies.
“Closing even a single fire company in New York City will lead to increased response times, more fire fatalities and millions of dollars in property damage,” she said.
The mayor said just because some city agencies will have their funding slashed does not mean city residents will be getting fewer services.
“I think people understand we live in a more difficult time and they may not be happy about it, but they’re adjusting,” he said.
Bloomberg said the city’s financial condition is made worse because of rising pension costs. He said per capita pension costs are now higher than salaries for uniformed workers and teachers and pension costs increased by $600 million this year “and it’s getting worse.”
He blamed the city’s unions for saying he wants to cut their pensions when the mayor said the cuts are for prospective employees.
“We’re not trying to take away benefits for anybody,” Bloomberg said. “This is a problem that year after year is going to get worse.”