Council Kicks Off Budget Battle
December 6th, 2010
City Budget Director Mark Page brought his usual good tidings to the City Council this morning (insert sarcasm here), as he urged the body to propose alternative cuts if it wants to save any specific program from his budget ax.
The warning occurred at the first of several hearings the City Council has scheduled on the mayor’s $1.6 billion proposed mid-year budget cuts. Released last month, the unusual mid-year proposal is an attempt by the Bloomberg adminsitration to minimize an even larger looming budget deficit for the next fiscal year. If these cuts are enacted, the city will still face at least a $2.4 billion hole come July.
“The $2.4 billion gap is obviously considerable in itself,” said Page. “Unfortunately, the reality we are facing is likely to be considerably worse.”
Page was referring to a potential cut from the state, which faces an approximately $10 billion to $12 billion deficit. He estimates the city could see an additional cut of between $2 billion and $3 billion in state aid.
The council has already proposed more than $130 million in alternative cuts and identified several areas it would like to see held harmless, including case managers at the Department for the Aging and layoffs at the Administration for Children’s Services. Nonetheless, Council Speaker Christine Quinn said this morning the council recognizes the city has to cut back.
“Most of those we support,” said Quinn of the administration’s plan. “I don’t want that to be lost in the conversation today.”
“That said, there are many troubling cuts,” the speaker added and then rattled off her list, including the nightly closures of certain fire companies.
Council members took aim at the adminsitration over a slew of other slashes — from cuts to outreach for homeless youth (which we cover today) to funding reductions at libraries. Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, the chair of the Cultural Affairs Committee, said some libraries could reduce service to two or three days a week under the current cut.
And, of course, the conversation turned to politics.
Councilmember Jimmy Oddo, the council’s minority leader, questioned the administration’s reasoning for extending term limits — an argument based on its ability to use creative solutions for fiscal problems.
“We needed this adminsitration because it was uniquely qualified. What in this modification would you argue is unique?” Oddo asked the budget director to a round of applause. “Where’s the payoff for the term limits vote? Where is the radical idea?”
“For better or worse, you are getting it now,” Page responded. “This administration has achieved a record of order. … The best you can hope for is there won’t be too many nasty surprises.”By Courtney Gross on December 6, 2010, 5:19 pm
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