Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/city-budget 2019-01-24T11:09:19+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Imagining an ‘Asset Light’ Sanitation Department 2018-12-18T05:00:00+00:00 2018-12-18T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8146-imagining-an-asset-light-sanitation-department Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/24270407130_b17a244025_z.jpg" alt="sanitation truck snow plow" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>(photo:&nbsp;Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Recent <a href="https://town-village.com/2018/09/06/garbage-trucks-mount-carmel/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">news</a> that the New York City Department of Sanitation had its trucks evicted from a Chelsea garage on West 30th Street and will now park them on a side street near Manhattan’s Bellevue South Park should raise a question: why does Sanitation need to garage its trucks in the first place? It's not as if sanitation trucks are Lamborghinis requiring careful protection or 1970s era Jaguars that spent more time in the shop than on the road. &nbsp;</p> <p>Since Sanitation is street-parking the trucks now, and has for several years over near the West Side railyards, why are any garaged overnight at all?</p> <p>Sanitation, and thus the City, could realize substantial efficiencies, capital and operating cost reductions in its garage operations by using an "asset light" strategy with a much smaller footprint for its structures.</p> <p>Some of the city’s 2,100 garbage collection trucks have been maintained for <a href="https://town-village.com/2018/09/06/garbage-trucks-mount-carmel/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">years outdoors</a> in various locations throughout New York City.</p> <p>What if Sanitation used small fueling and washing facilities around the city where, say, a half-dozen trucks could be power-washed and fueled at a time, every so often, in a "roll-in, roll-out" facility, and then parked at a location near the start of their routes?</p> <p>According to press reports, the Sanitation workers union rules require its trucks to be parked near Sanitation facilities that house lunchrooms, showers, and locker rooms. But what if that were not the case? What if the City were to negotiate with the sanitation union so as to use existing facilities in police precincts, hospitals, firehouses, or in some of the smaller footprint Sanitation fueling and washing facilities, and park its trucks near those facilities?</p> <p>Why couldn't workers, who are actually first responders to some of New York City’s worst weather events, be reimbursed for parking their personal vehicles in commercial parking lots and garages or at reserved parking spots near where the trucks they operate are parked, along with the 1,000 or so cars and light-duty trucks sanitation department operates?</p> <p>Certainly, there are some department vehicles that would still need to be garaged. &nbsp;Mechanical brooms, front-end loaders, and snow-melters don’t really lend themselves to outdoor parking. But there are less than 800 of those vehicles -- of the total 3,400 Sanitation vehicles -- and they could be spread among smaller facilities throughout the city. &nbsp;</p> <p>Going asset light would allow Sanitation to sell off massive garages that occupy huge footprints, some on prime real estate, in Manhattan and the four other boroughs, and instead operate from smaller ready and repair shops where trucks could be cleaned, fueled, and serviced on a fixed schedule and prepared for snow removal service. Equipment for maintenance, repair, and snow-plow service could be trucked to these smaller footprint satellites from central locations in industrial areas of the five boroughs on an as-needed basis.</p> <p>All of this would, &nbsp;of course, require a radical rethinking of the way the Department of Sanitation currently operates. The unions would have to buy in and members compensated by some means, perhaps by a shorter workday as routes would be accessed more quickly. But re-thinking how Sanitation functions would reduce its operating costs and allow existing facilities to be sold off for development -- as warehouses for UPS, Amazon, FedEx, or other commercial businesses; to ameliorate a dearth of active park play space in Manhattan and other boroughs; or to develop into affordable housing.</p> <p>“Amazing Grace” Hopper, the pioneering computer scientist and U.S. Navy Reserve admiral who laid the groundwork for COBOL, UNIVAC, and other world-changing computer technology, once said that “The most dangerous words in the English language are, ‘That’s the way we’ve always done it.’” &nbsp;</p> <p>The Department of Sanitation and civic leaders should take the admiral’s words under advisement and re-think the means by which the city operates the department.</p> <p>***<br /> J.G. Collins is the managing director at The Stuyvesant Square Consultancy, an advisory and consulting firm. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/StuySquare" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@StuySquare</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/24270407130_b17a244025_z.jpg" alt="sanitation truck snow plow" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>(photo:&nbsp;Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Recent <a href="https://town-village.com/2018/09/06/garbage-trucks-mount-carmel/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">news</a> that the New York City Department of Sanitation had its trucks evicted from a Chelsea garage on West 30th Street and will now park them on a side street near Manhattan’s Bellevue South Park should raise a question: why does Sanitation need to garage its trucks in the first place? It's not as if sanitation trucks are Lamborghinis requiring careful protection or 1970s era Jaguars that spent more time in the shop than on the road. &nbsp;</p> <p>Since Sanitation is street-parking the trucks now, and has for several years over near the West Side railyards, why are any garaged overnight at all?</p> <p>Sanitation, and thus the City, could realize substantial efficiencies, capital and operating cost reductions in its garage operations by using an "asset light" strategy with a much smaller footprint for its structures.</p> <p>Some of the city’s 2,100 garbage collection trucks have been maintained for <a href="https://town-village.com/2018/09/06/garbage-trucks-mount-carmel/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">years outdoors</a> in various locations throughout New York City.</p> <p>What if Sanitation used small fueling and washing facilities around the city where, say, a half-dozen trucks could be power-washed and fueled at a time, every so often, in a "roll-in, roll-out" facility, and then parked at a location near the start of their routes?</p> <p>According to press reports, the Sanitation workers union rules require its trucks to be parked near Sanitation facilities that house lunchrooms, showers, and locker rooms. But what if that were not the case? What if the City were to negotiate with the sanitation union so as to use existing facilities in police precincts, hospitals, firehouses, or in some of the smaller footprint Sanitation fueling and washing facilities, and park its trucks near those facilities?</p> <p>Why couldn't workers, who are actually first responders to some of New York City’s worst weather events, be reimbursed for parking their personal vehicles in commercial parking lots and garages or at reserved parking spots near where the trucks they operate are parked, along with the 1,000 or so cars and light-duty trucks sanitation department operates?</p> <p>Certainly, there are some department vehicles that would still need to be garaged. &nbsp;Mechanical brooms, front-end loaders, and snow-melters don’t really lend themselves to outdoor parking. But there are less than 800 of those vehicles -- of the total 3,400 Sanitation vehicles -- and they could be spread among smaller facilities throughout the city. &nbsp;</p> <p>Going asset light would allow Sanitation to sell off massive garages that occupy huge footprints, some on prime real estate, in Manhattan and the four other boroughs, and instead operate from smaller ready and repair shops where trucks could be cleaned, fueled, and serviced on a fixed schedule and prepared for snow removal service. Equipment for maintenance, repair, and snow-plow service could be trucked to these smaller footprint satellites from central locations in industrial areas of the five boroughs on an as-needed basis.</p> <p>All of this would, &nbsp;of course, require a radical rethinking of the way the Department of Sanitation currently operates. The unions would have to buy in and members compensated by some means, perhaps by a shorter workday as routes would be accessed more quickly. But re-thinking how Sanitation functions would reduce its operating costs and allow existing facilities to be sold off for development -- as warehouses for UPS, Amazon, FedEx, or other commercial businesses; to ameliorate a dearth of active park play space in Manhattan and other boroughs; or to develop into affordable housing.</p> <p>“Amazing Grace” Hopper, the pioneering computer scientist and U.S. Navy Reserve admiral who laid the groundwork for COBOL, UNIVAC, and other world-changing computer technology, once said that “The most dangerous words in the English language are, ‘That’s the way we’ve always done it.’” &nbsp;</p> <p>The Department of Sanitation and civic leaders should take the admiral’s words under advisement and re-think the means by which the city operates the department.</p> <p>***<br /> J.G. Collins is the managing director at The Stuyvesant Square Consultancy, an advisory and consulting firm. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/StuySquare" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@StuySquare</a>.</p> <p>

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Agenda 2019: City & State Budgets on Mostly Solid Ground, with Major Questions Looming 2018-12-16T05:00:00+00:00 2018-12-16T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8147-agenda-2019-city-state-budgets-on-mostly-solid-ground-with-major-questions-looming Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/38830501065_76fa4325c9_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo budget presentation" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo (photo: The Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1542727012992000&amp;usg=AFQjCNFY2bJ6BA6AesUwakCrfkUOqoU35A">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>New York’s economy has seen several rosy years in the decade since the Great Recession, with a run of steady growth, increasing job numbers, rising wages, and reliable tax revenue that has defied historical trends -- and led to growing city and state government budgets. But 2019 may be the peak of that economic swing as economic experts predict a long-expected slowdown to set in before 2020. New York City, the experts say, seems better equipped to weather any adverse effects of slowing growth and the state may struggle, presenting some hard choices for Democrats who will fully control state government come January and have a long list of priorities, some of which have financial costs attached.</p> <p>Also complicating the fiscal pictures as the state and city levels are projected budget gaps that must be closed, looming negotiations over how to fund the next MTA capital budget plan and its tens of billions of dollars to fix the subways, and the still unclear effects of recent federal tax reforms, among other outstanding questions. The finances of New York City continue to show a rosier picture than those of the state, with the city economy essential to the state’s ability to spend more each year, though the state has grown its budget in much more limited fashion than the city under Mayor Bill de Blasio.</p> <p>In January, Governor Andrew Cuomo will present his State of the State address and executive budget for the fiscal year that begins April 1. Afterward, de Blasio will respond to the governor’s budget plan -- which will set the stage for negotiations with the state Legislature, de Blasio, and others -- and release his own preliminary budget for the next city fiscal year, which will begin July 1. Once the state budget is finalized, the city will be able to take its details -- funding levels, new mandates, and more -- into account as it creates its own budget. The specifics of the annual struggle over what the state is asking or requiring of the city are to be seen, though Cuomo has already indicated he plans to seek more money for the MTA from de Blasio.</p> <p>Budgets are statements of values as much as they are financial planning documents and Cuomo and de Blasio, both Democrats, face pressure each year to balance their policy priorities with fiscal restraint, as well as the demands of others, especially members of the respective legislative bodies each must negotiate with. The governor prides himself on having passed eight on-time or nearly on-time budgets with a 2 percent cap on increased spending, though he is known to manipulate the numbers to say he has stuck to that limit even though some years he has not. De Blasio boasts of record amounts of savings, though watchdogs regularly say that he is not socking away enough given the extended economic boom while he is spending too much, especially in recurring costs like through a significant expansion of the city workforce.</p> <p>The agreed upon state budget was more than $168 billion for the current 2019 fiscal year, with savings that are far too minimal according to every expert. And the mayor’s administration, though praised by fiscal monitors for its responsible financial planning, has overseen ballooning expenditures, passing a nearly $90 billion budget for fiscal 2019 -- it was $72.7 in the final year of the Bloomberg administration.</p> <p>But New York City revenue is largely based on property taxes, which would remain relatively stable even in the event of an economic slowdown. The state on the other hand is far more vulnerable since personal income tax and sales tax contribute a bulk to state revenue.</p> <p>Barring any unforeseen circumstances, the current economic expansion, the second-longest in the country’s history, will continue through most of 2019, bolstered by the federal tax cuts passed in 2017 (even if many New Yorkers’ tax burdens increase due to the new cap on state and local deductibles). It should allow both the state and the city to keep spending, though experts warn that both should prepare for what will happen down the line. Both the Cuomo and de Blasio administrations, along with the state Legislature and City Council, respectively, should be putting more money towards rainy day funds, fiscal experts say; particularly the state, especially as necessary infrastructure investments loom large and add to already rising debt obligations.</p> <p><strong>New York State</strong><br />The state budget remains far more precariously placed in the case of a downturn, even though one isn’t expected to hit soon. The governor has reiterated in recent months that he will continue to abide by a self-imposed 2 percent limit on increased annual expenditures, which presents little wiggle room to add major spending initiatives, though it remains to be seen if the governor will employ one of his many budget maneuvers to obscure actual spending increases. For instance, the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.budget.ny.gov/pubs/press/2018/pr-enactfy19.html">State Fiscal Year 2019 budget</a>, which began April 1, included a provision that funnels Payroll Mobility Tax revenue directly to the MTA instead of going through the state, effectively shifting $1.5 billion out of the budget.</p> <p>“Part of the problem is they’ve technically abided by it but they’ve only done that by shifting things around and reclassifying things, not necessarily through stringent cost controls,” said David Friedfel, director of state studies at Citizens Budget Commission, a nonprofit watchdog. “The more they play those tricks, the harder they will be to find in the future if that’s how they choose to close the gap.”</p> <p>The New York State Division of Budget’s&nbsp;<a href="https://www.budget.ny.gov/pubs/archive/fy19/enac/fy19myfp.pdf">mid-year financial update</a>, released in November, predicted that the state will meet its revenue projections by the end of the fiscal year. Even at the state level, budget gaps remain manageable, at about $3.1 billion for fiscal year 2020, a number that is quickly cut if the 2 percent growth is factored in.</p> <p>State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli released his own&nbsp;<a href="https://www.osc.state.ny.us/reports/budget/2018/quick-start-report.pdf">financial update</a>&nbsp;in November, estimating that overall tax revenues would decrease by 1.8 percent by the end of the state’s 2019 fiscal year (end of March). Though personal income tax revenues are expected to fall by 2.5 percent, business and consumption taxes are set to increase by a total of 6.5 percent, the report estimated. Tax revenues are expected to increase by 5.9 in the 2020 fiscal year and then at a lower rate, 2.4 percent in the 2021 fiscal year.</p> <p>Similar to city representatives, officials in DiNapoli’s office said in a background briefing that they expect a soft landing for the economy, despite the volatility in national and international markets. They have yet to determine the full impacts of the federal tax code overhaul, which capped State and Local Tax (SALT) deductions at $10,000 annually, raising concerns that high earners facing larger tax bills would in some cases fold to out-migration pressures, leaving the state and taking their tax dollars with them. Given New York’s position as a high-tax state, even many upper middle class homeowners in expensive New York City suburbs, and in the city itself, will be facing increased tax burdens, though it is not immediately clear that these factors will lead to a significant increase in the number of higher earners leaving the state. New York has consistently seen out-migration each year and has lost a net of 1 million residents since 2010,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.empirecenter.org/publications/ny-out-migration-tops-1m-since-2010/">according</a>&nbsp;to The Empire Center, a think tank. A report issued by the center&nbsp;<a href="https://www.empirecenter.org/publications/checklist-2018/">in March</a>&nbsp;suggested that the state should undertake several reforms to encourage the economic competitiveness which could help reverse that trend.</p> <p>The state took measures to decouple state tax provisions from the federal tax code, including decoupling from the SALT limit to prevent higher state taxes, and changes to the child tax credit and the single filer deduction. The state also created two new programs -- the Employer Compensation Expense Program and the State Charitable Gifts Trust Fund -- in an effort to limit state taxpayers’ exposure to federal tax changes, but neither program appears to have caught on in any significant way. Officials in the state comptroller’s office said the impacts of the SALT deduction in particular wouldn’t be evident until during next fiscal year, particularly if it encourages people to move out of state.</p> <p>Other risks in federal funding to the state seen in recent years -- Republican proposals to repeal the Affordable Care Act and make drastic cuts to Medicaid -- have also mitigated, the officials said, since those proposals have failed to come to fruition. But federal funding does remain uncertain as Congress is in the middle of negotiating the current federal budget with President Donald Trump, who has threatened a government shutdown if Congress does not approve funding for a wall along the southern border that he had promised Mexico would pay for. The ballooning federal deficit incurred from the Trump-led tax cuts have also increased pressure on federal spending, which could trickle down to the aid that New York receives for transportation, health care, and education, among other things.</p> <p>“The state is in decent financial position but not when you consider the fact that we are nine years or so into an economic expansion,” CBC’s Friedfel said. “The state has been gifted with $12 billion in financial settlements and some additional revenues yet the state’s reserves are not where they should be or could be. They haven’t been added to in about four years. And liabilities are still out there.”</p> <p>As Friedfel noted, the state’s rainy day funds stand at only about $2 billion, a pittance when looked at in the context of a downturn. In the case of a recession, Friedfel estimated, the state could face up to $50 billion in combined losses over a four-year period. “California is doing a very good job on their reserves. They’re gonna have close to 10 percent of state operating spending in their reserves, which is really what New York should be aiming for,” he said. “Instead of $2 billion, we should be closer to $10 billion.”</p> <p>As with the city, the state’s debt also continues to rise, particularly with the governor having launched an ambitious infrastructure program that includes modernizing existing facilities and building new ones across the state, including bridges, airports and bus systems. The state’s debt service payments for fiscal year 2019 stood at $5.5 billion and are&nbsp;<a href="https://www.budget.ny.gov/pubs/archive/fy19/enac/fy19myfp.pdf">projected</a>&nbsp;to rise to $6.6 billion in 2020. New York currently&nbsp;<a href="https://www.osc.state.ny.us/finance/finreports/fcr/2018/debt.htm">ranks</a>&nbsp;second-highest in the country, behind California, in outstanding debt.</p> <p>Year after year, DiNapoli has waved a red flag over the state’s debt obligations and officials in his office are keeping a close eye on whether those will increase in the upcoming year. There will be particularly pressing needs -- the MTA, NYCHA -- where the state will have to work with the city to fund large capital improvements. The current 2015-2019 MTA capital plan remains underfunded and the Fast Forward Plan, proposed by New York City Transit President Andy Byford to modernize the city’s subway and bus systems, may cost nearly $40 billion, with no plan proposed to pay for it in its entirety. A congestion pricing program for New York City has been embraced by the governor and many in the state Legislature as a funding stream, but even if implemented quickly and without carve-outs it would fall far short of meeting the goal.</p> <p>“That’s one of the biggest questions,” said Gelinas from the Manhattan Institute, “especially if the economy continues to do well. How much does Governor Cuomo go after the city for MTA funding and in multiple billions of dollars...and does that cut into the city’s other priorities?”</p> <p>IBO’s Lowenstein also echoed that concern. “The state has a great deal of leverage over the city and its own fiscal concerns and it would be unreasonable to expect these issues get resolved without city participation.”</p> <p>Last time Cuomo and de Blasio negotiated the MTA capital plan, the governor successfully convinced the mayor to significantly increase city funds for the authority. Cuomo has repeatedly stated publicly in recent months that he will be pushing the city to pay “its fair share” for the MTA. De Blasio has called for an added tax on high-earners to provide dedicated funding for the MTA, a proposal that Cuomo has publicly mocked as fantasy on several occasions.</p> <p>The state Legislature next year will also include several newly-elected Democrats who expressed support for increased education funding, per the Campaign for Fiscal Equity decision, which could add billions to the state budget. The state Board of Regents recently proposed a $2.1 billion increase in education funding for next year, which would be a significant jump from the current fiscal year’s increase.</p> <p>New York already spends nearly twice the national average on per-pupil funding, said CBC’s Friedfel, but doesn’t necessarily allocate funding to the districts that need it most. CBC has&nbsp;<a href="https://cbcny.org/research/better-foundation-aid-formula">argued</a>&nbsp;for changing the key formula, known as Foundation Aid, noting that many wealthy districts receive it despite already spending more than the national average and more than the already-high state average by leveraging local tax dollars.</p> <p>Another open question is what the state will do with about $900 million in unspent or unallocated one-time funds from Extraordinary Monetary Settlements, recovered from the financial industry in the wake of the 2008-09 market crash. Since state fiscal year 2015, the state has received nearly $11.2 billion in those settlements.</p> <p>Though the governor has repeatedly said he will divert those funds to capital investments, and he mostly has, he has also used them for budget balancing purposes, DiNapoli’s office noted.</p> <p>“The governor should be putting much more money of any one-time revenue sources aside for the MTA, things like court settlements or just better-than-expected revenues,” Gelinas said, noting the dire need to fund the transit agency. “We haven’t put enough of that money aside for the MTA.” Cuomo has, on the other hand, dedicated financial settlement money to his signature infrastructure projects, like the new Mario M. Cuomo Bridge.</p> <p>Unlikely to impact the next state budget, but certainly on the negotiating table in the new legislative year, is the push to revolutionize how New York provides health insurance and health care. Several legislators, long-time and newly elected, are pushing for the New York Health Act, which would establish a single-payer health care system in the state and could cost nearly $140 billion in additional state expenditure by 2022, according to&nbsp;<a href="https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR2424.html">a RAND Corporation study</a>. Though the act could reduce total health care spending by 3 percent by 2031, the study found. Cuomo has said he supports a single-payer system, but has insisted that it should be implemented by the federal government rather than the state, and said that he does not see it make fiscal sense for New York.</p> <p>New York already has one of the largest Medicaid programs in the country, comprising a huge chunk of the state budget (education and Medicaid are the two biggest spending programs). But enrollment has been relatively flat over the last three years. If that trend continues, Friedfel said, the state could find more savings in the budget.</p> <p>Friedfel also noted at least one development on the horizon that could have a significant impact on state tax revenue. “The million pound gorilla in the room is what’s gonna happen with the state’s millionaire’s tax,” Friedfel said. The tax is due to expire on December 31, 2019, and though prominent elected officials have called for extending, and even expanding, the program, CBC’s position is that it should be allowed to sunset to help with the state’s economic competitiveness and to keep high-earners from leaving because of the SALT deduction cap.</p> <p>While Cuomo has overseen its repeated extension and he has dismissed calls to expand it,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8047-tax-issues-at-center-of-new-york-elections-albany-year-to-come">during the recent election cycle</a>&nbsp;he was mum about what he wants to do with the current millionaire’s tax.</p> <p><strong>New York City</strong><br />The city released its latest budget modification in November, revising spending up by $1.4 billion, for a total of $90.56 billion for the 2019 fiscal year, which ends June 30. That marks a high point for city spending, and an $18 billion increase from before de Blasio came to power in 2014. The city’s Office of Management and Budget projects a manageable $3.17 billion budget gap -- the difference between expected revenues and projected expenditures -- for the 2020 fiscal year starting July 1. OMB expects that gap to rise to $3.36 billion for fiscal year 2022, the end of the current four-year financial plan period, by when expenditures are projected to reach a whopping $99.6 billion.</p> <p>As City Comptroller Scott Stringer noted in his <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/annual-state-of-the-citys-economy-and-finances/?utm_source=Media-All&amp;utm_campaign=d8ec0a9cbb-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_12_08_COPY_01&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_term=0_7cd514b03e-d8ec0a9cbb-109199453">latest financial report</a> released on Friday, OMB tends to issue more conservative estimates of revenues in upcoming years, allowing the administration more leeway to adjust spending. Stringer’s report estimates the budget gap to be lower, about $2.6 billion in FY2019 and $2.8 billion in FY2022. &nbsp;</p> <p>“We’ve come out of a run of a number of years of good economic conditions and good fiscal conditions here in the city...but we’re not seeing anything in the numbers that suggests it’s going to end anytime soon,” said Ronnie Lowenstein, director of the Independent Budget Office, a nonpartisan city-funded agency.</p> <p>In a background briefing, an official at Comptroller Stringer’s office acknowledged that there’s significant uncertainty, with even the Federal Reserve appearing divided about where the economy is heading. There are mixed signals in the market -- unemployment is markedly low which should lead to higher inflation, but hasn’t.</p> <p>But the comptroller’s office is cautiously optimistic and no economist currently projects a recession -- though one is never out of the question -- but rather a return to a slower rate of growth by the time 2020 rolls around.</p> <p>“[We’re] expecting a great deal more softness in economic growth,” said IBO’s Lowenstein. “Not a recession but a much softer U.S. economy. And as far as the local economy’s concerned, we’ve already begun to see the weakening.” She pointed to the drop in job growth over the last few months and also noted that though the job market has diversified with more jobs created outside the financial industry than before the last recession, most of the new jobs have been in lower-paying industries.</p> <p>But she said that slower growth won’t create out-of-control deficits. “We’re looking at gaps that are readily manageable, of the size that we’ve managed in the past,” she said.</p> <p>The official from the comptroller’s office agreed that the city has the capacity to manage outyear budget gaps, particularly with a strong budget surplus each year that has allowed the city to maintain a healthy, if not optimal, level of reserves. The de Blasio administration put away added rainy day funds in the current fiscal year, responding to demands from the City Council. The result included a total of $1.25 billion in the general reserve, $4.35 billion in the Retiree Health Benefits Trust Fund, and $250 million in the capital stabilization reserve.</p> <p>The city’s budget cushion has been increasing over the years and stood at about 11.2 percent at the start of the current fiscal year, though the comptroller has urged the administration to maintain levels between 12 and 18 percent, the lower range of which would have required more than $6.3 billion to hit the upper end.</p> <p><strong><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/agenda19v2-a.jpg" alt="agenda19v2 a" width="250" height="127" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" /></a></strong>There are of course various risks that the city must manage. One big vulnerability, according to the official from the comptroller’s office, is the size of the city’s workforce, which has added more than 30,000 workers under de Blasio.</p> <p>“If you look at the November budget update...the biggest issue is the increased expected spending on labor,” said Nicole Gelinas, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a think tank. She noted that <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/omb/downloads/pdf/fp11-18.pdf">the report</a> increased the labor reserve for fiscal year 2020 by $704 million, for 2021 by nearly $1 billion and for 2022 by about $1.4 billion.</p> <p>“It just shows that these labor agreements that the mayor is making with the unions are costing a little bit more money than expected,” she said. “So the basic story is if the economy keeps doing well, we can probably squeak by with balancing next year’s budget...but if the economy does fall into a recession, with the higher labor costs making these deficits a little bit bigger over the next few years, they would pose a bigger problem for the city.”</p> <p>Gelinas said the city must take aggressive cost-cutting measures in labor agreements, particularly health care spending, to help avert layoffs and service cuts in the case of a recession. “Longterm, health care savings have to be much more aggressive,” she said. “The healthcare fringe benefit budget for the upcoming fiscal year will be almost $11.5 billion and it’s continuing to rise. It’s going to $12.5 billion by the end of the financial plan.”</p> <p>“No mayor has ever gotten through two terms without a recession,” she added on the eve of de Blasio’s sixth year in office.</p> <p>The city’s debt obligations have also been rising, owing to a massive capital program, which pays for building and maintaining the city’s infrastructure such as roads, parks, schools, and libraries.</p> <p>“Debt service is one of the two big sources of growth in city spending,” said IBO’s Lowenstein, referring to the annual debt payments that are included in the city’s expense budget. “It’s debt service and healthcare, and they’re both big and they’re both growing very fast.” Debt service -- which is accounted for in the city’s annual operating budget -- is budgeted at a total of $6.8 billion for fiscal year 2019, according to the November update, and is expected to rise to $8.3 billion by fiscal year 2022.</p> <p>Unlike most other municipalities, New York City’s capital program is funded entirely through borrowing, incurring massive debt that must necessarily be paid off every year, which could pose problems in the long run. “It’s less that we can’t continue to pay the debt service on the commitments that we’ve made but rather that they’re crowding out other things that the city might want to do,” Lowenstein said. “And our ability to expand those capital commitments is not unlimited. Especially in an era when interest rates are rising.”</p> <p>Rising debt service also gives the mayor and City Council “less leeway to budget for other things ranging from teachers to cops to road repair,” she said.</p> <p>Stringer has repeatedly raised the issue of rising debt, though it’s not yet out of control. The rule of thumb for his office is that debt service should not exceed 15 percent of tax revenues, a level it is well below currently. And the City Council has also attempted to make changes to the mismanaged capital funding process, creating a new subcommittee this year dedicated to examining the capital budget, finding ways to make it more efficient and reducing cost overruns. Upcoming City Council budget hearings may indicate whether that subcommittee and its focus are having any real impact.</p> <p>But there are big items that may add significantly to the city’s capital investments and therefore create an additional debt burden. Those include funding for the beleaguered New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) and the state-run Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). In both cases, the city may have no choice but to commit billions more dollars, particularly pending the outcome of negotiations with federal officials over NYCHA and with state officials over the MTA, for which the city typically kicks in significant capital funds.</p> <p>“The city may not have choices so the speed with which this occurs may be out of our hands,” Lowenstein said.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1542727012992000&amp;usg=AFQjCNFY2bJ6BA6AesUwakCrfkUOqoU35A">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - This article has been updated to ntoe that the Capital Stabilization Reserve is $250 million, not $250 billion.&nbsp;</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/38830501065_76fa4325c9_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo budget presentation" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo (photo: The Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1542727012992000&amp;usg=AFQjCNFY2bJ6BA6AesUwakCrfkUOqoU35A">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>New York’s economy has seen several rosy years in the decade since the Great Recession, with a run of steady growth, increasing job numbers, rising wages, and reliable tax revenue that has defied historical trends -- and led to growing city and state government budgets. But 2019 may be the peak of that economic swing as economic experts predict a long-expected slowdown to set in before 2020. New York City, the experts say, seems better equipped to weather any adverse effects of slowing growth and the state may struggle, presenting some hard choices for Democrats who will fully control state government come January and have a long list of priorities, some of which have financial costs attached.</p> <p>Also complicating the fiscal pictures as the state and city levels are projected budget gaps that must be closed, looming negotiations over how to fund the next MTA capital budget plan and its tens of billions of dollars to fix the subways, and the still unclear effects of recent federal tax reforms, among other outstanding questions. The finances of New York City continue to show a rosier picture than those of the state, with the city economy essential to the state’s ability to spend more each year, though the state has grown its budget in much more limited fashion than the city under Mayor Bill de Blasio.</p> <p>In January, Governor Andrew Cuomo will present his State of the State address and executive budget for the fiscal year that begins April 1. Afterward, de Blasio will respond to the governor’s budget plan -- which will set the stage for negotiations with the state Legislature, de Blasio, and others -- and release his own preliminary budget for the next city fiscal year, which will begin July 1. Once the state budget is finalized, the city will be able to take its details -- funding levels, new mandates, and more -- into account as it creates its own budget. The specifics of the annual struggle over what the state is asking or requiring of the city are to be seen, though Cuomo has already indicated he plans to seek more money for the MTA from de Blasio.</p> <p>Budgets are statements of values as much as they are financial planning documents and Cuomo and de Blasio, both Democrats, face pressure each year to balance their policy priorities with fiscal restraint, as well as the demands of others, especially members of the respective legislative bodies each must negotiate with. The governor prides himself on having passed eight on-time or nearly on-time budgets with a 2 percent cap on increased spending, though he is known to manipulate the numbers to say he has stuck to that limit even though some years he has not. De Blasio boasts of record amounts of savings, though watchdogs regularly say that he is not socking away enough given the extended economic boom while he is spending too much, especially in recurring costs like through a significant expansion of the city workforce.</p> <p>The agreed upon state budget was more than $168 billion for the current 2019 fiscal year, with savings that are far too minimal according to every expert. And the mayor’s administration, though praised by fiscal monitors for its responsible financial planning, has overseen ballooning expenditures, passing a nearly $90 billion budget for fiscal 2019 -- it was $72.7 in the final year of the Bloomberg administration.</p> <p>But New York City revenue is largely based on property taxes, which would remain relatively stable even in the event of an economic slowdown. The state on the other hand is far more vulnerable since personal income tax and sales tax contribute a bulk to state revenue.</p> <p>Barring any unforeseen circumstances, the current economic expansion, the second-longest in the country’s history, will continue through most of 2019, bolstered by the federal tax cuts passed in 2017 (even if many New Yorkers’ tax burdens increase due to the new cap on state and local deductibles). It should allow both the state and the city to keep spending, though experts warn that both should prepare for what will happen down the line. Both the Cuomo and de Blasio administrations, along with the state Legislature and City Council, respectively, should be putting more money towards rainy day funds, fiscal experts say; particularly the state, especially as necessary infrastructure investments loom large and add to already rising debt obligations.</p> <p><strong>New York State</strong><br />The state budget remains far more precariously placed in the case of a downturn, even though one isn’t expected to hit soon. The governor has reiterated in recent months that he will continue to abide by a self-imposed 2 percent limit on increased annual expenditures, which presents little wiggle room to add major spending initiatives, though it remains to be seen if the governor will employ one of his many budget maneuvers to obscure actual spending increases. For instance, the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.budget.ny.gov/pubs/press/2018/pr-enactfy19.html">State Fiscal Year 2019 budget</a>, which began April 1, included a provision that funnels Payroll Mobility Tax revenue directly to the MTA instead of going through the state, effectively shifting $1.5 billion out of the budget.</p> <p>“Part of the problem is they’ve technically abided by it but they’ve only done that by shifting things around and reclassifying things, not necessarily through stringent cost controls,” said David Friedfel, director of state studies at Citizens Budget Commission, a nonprofit watchdog. “The more they play those tricks, the harder they will be to find in the future if that’s how they choose to close the gap.”</p> <p>The New York State Division of Budget’s&nbsp;<a href="https://www.budget.ny.gov/pubs/archive/fy19/enac/fy19myfp.pdf">mid-year financial update</a>, released in November, predicted that the state will meet its revenue projections by the end of the fiscal year. Even at the state level, budget gaps remain manageable, at about $3.1 billion for fiscal year 2020, a number that is quickly cut if the 2 percent growth is factored in.</p> <p>State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli released his own&nbsp;<a href="https://www.osc.state.ny.us/reports/budget/2018/quick-start-report.pdf">financial update</a>&nbsp;in November, estimating that overall tax revenues would decrease by 1.8 percent by the end of the state’s 2019 fiscal year (end of March). Though personal income tax revenues are expected to fall by 2.5 percent, business and consumption taxes are set to increase by a total of 6.5 percent, the report estimated. Tax revenues are expected to increase by 5.9 in the 2020 fiscal year and then at a lower rate, 2.4 percent in the 2021 fiscal year.</p> <p>Similar to city representatives, officials in DiNapoli’s office said in a background briefing that they expect a soft landing for the economy, despite the volatility in national and international markets. They have yet to determine the full impacts of the federal tax code overhaul, which capped State and Local Tax (SALT) deductions at $10,000 annually, raising concerns that high earners facing larger tax bills would in some cases fold to out-migration pressures, leaving the state and taking their tax dollars with them. Given New York’s position as a high-tax state, even many upper middle class homeowners in expensive New York City suburbs, and in the city itself, will be facing increased tax burdens, though it is not immediately clear that these factors will lead to a significant increase in the number of higher earners leaving the state. New York has consistently seen out-migration each year and has lost a net of 1 million residents since 2010,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.empirecenter.org/publications/ny-out-migration-tops-1m-since-2010/">according</a>&nbsp;to The Empire Center, a think tank. A report issued by the center&nbsp;<a href="https://www.empirecenter.org/publications/checklist-2018/">in March</a>&nbsp;suggested that the state should undertake several reforms to encourage the economic competitiveness which could help reverse that trend.</p> <p>The state took measures to decouple state tax provisions from the federal tax code, including decoupling from the SALT limit to prevent higher state taxes, and changes to the child tax credit and the single filer deduction. The state also created two new programs -- the Employer Compensation Expense Program and the State Charitable Gifts Trust Fund -- in an effort to limit state taxpayers’ exposure to federal tax changes, but neither program appears to have caught on in any significant way. Officials in the state comptroller’s office said the impacts of the SALT deduction in particular wouldn’t be evident until during next fiscal year, particularly if it encourages people to move out of state.</p> <p>Other risks in federal funding to the state seen in recent years -- Republican proposals to repeal the Affordable Care Act and make drastic cuts to Medicaid -- have also mitigated, the officials said, since those proposals have failed to come to fruition. But federal funding does remain uncertain as Congress is in the middle of negotiating the current federal budget with President Donald Trump, who has threatened a government shutdown if Congress does not approve funding for a wall along the southern border that he had promised Mexico would pay for. The ballooning federal deficit incurred from the Trump-led tax cuts have also increased pressure on federal spending, which could trickle down to the aid that New York receives for transportation, health care, and education, among other things.</p> <p>“The state is in decent financial position but not when you consider the fact that we are nine years or so into an economic expansion,” CBC’s Friedfel said. “The state has been gifted with $12 billion in financial settlements and some additional revenues yet the state’s reserves are not where they should be or could be. They haven’t been added to in about four years. And liabilities are still out there.”</p> <p>As Friedfel noted, the state’s rainy day funds stand at only about $2 billion, a pittance when looked at in the context of a downturn. In the case of a recession, Friedfel estimated, the state could face up to $50 billion in combined losses over a four-year period. “California is doing a very good job on their reserves. They’re gonna have close to 10 percent of state operating spending in their reserves, which is really what New York should be aiming for,” he said. “Instead of $2 billion, we should be closer to $10 billion.”</p> <p>As with the city, the state’s debt also continues to rise, particularly with the governor having launched an ambitious infrastructure program that includes modernizing existing facilities and building new ones across the state, including bridges, airports and bus systems. The state’s debt service payments for fiscal year 2019 stood at $5.5 billion and are&nbsp;<a href="https://www.budget.ny.gov/pubs/archive/fy19/enac/fy19myfp.pdf">projected</a>&nbsp;to rise to $6.6 billion in 2020. New York currently&nbsp;<a href="https://www.osc.state.ny.us/finance/finreports/fcr/2018/debt.htm">ranks</a>&nbsp;second-highest in the country, behind California, in outstanding debt.</p> <p>Year after year, DiNapoli has waved a red flag over the state’s debt obligations and officials in his office are keeping a close eye on whether those will increase in the upcoming year. There will be particularly pressing needs -- the MTA, NYCHA -- where the state will have to work with the city to fund large capital improvements. The current 2015-2019 MTA capital plan remains underfunded and the Fast Forward Plan, proposed by New York City Transit President Andy Byford to modernize the city’s subway and bus systems, may cost nearly $40 billion, with no plan proposed to pay for it in its entirety. A congestion pricing program for New York City has been embraced by the governor and many in the state Legislature as a funding stream, but even if implemented quickly and without carve-outs it would fall far short of meeting the goal.</p> <p>“That’s one of the biggest questions,” said Gelinas from the Manhattan Institute, “especially if the economy continues to do well. How much does Governor Cuomo go after the city for MTA funding and in multiple billions of dollars...and does that cut into the city’s other priorities?”</p> <p>IBO’s Lowenstein also echoed that concern. “The state has a great deal of leverage over the city and its own fiscal concerns and it would be unreasonable to expect these issues get resolved without city participation.”</p> <p>Last time Cuomo and de Blasio negotiated the MTA capital plan, the governor successfully convinced the mayor to significantly increase city funds for the authority. Cuomo has repeatedly stated publicly in recent months that he will be pushing the city to pay “its fair share” for the MTA. De Blasio has called for an added tax on high-earners to provide dedicated funding for the MTA, a proposal that Cuomo has publicly mocked as fantasy on several occasions.</p> <p>The state Legislature next year will also include several newly-elected Democrats who expressed support for increased education funding, per the Campaign for Fiscal Equity decision, which could add billions to the state budget. The state Board of Regents recently proposed a $2.1 billion increase in education funding for next year, which would be a significant jump from the current fiscal year’s increase.</p> <p>New York already spends nearly twice the national average on per-pupil funding, said CBC’s Friedfel, but doesn’t necessarily allocate funding to the districts that need it most. CBC has&nbsp;<a href="https://cbcny.org/research/better-foundation-aid-formula">argued</a>&nbsp;for changing the key formula, known as Foundation Aid, noting that many wealthy districts receive it despite already spending more than the national average and more than the already-high state average by leveraging local tax dollars.</p> <p>Another open question is what the state will do with about $900 million in unspent or unallocated one-time funds from Extraordinary Monetary Settlements, recovered from the financial industry in the wake of the 2008-09 market crash. Since state fiscal year 2015, the state has received nearly $11.2 billion in those settlements.</p> <p>Though the governor has repeatedly said he will divert those funds to capital investments, and he mostly has, he has also used them for budget balancing purposes, DiNapoli’s office noted.</p> <p>“The governor should be putting much more money of any one-time revenue sources aside for the MTA, things like court settlements or just better-than-expected revenues,” Gelinas said, noting the dire need to fund the transit agency. “We haven’t put enough of that money aside for the MTA.” Cuomo has, on the other hand, dedicated financial settlement money to his signature infrastructure projects, like the new Mario M. Cuomo Bridge.</p> <p>Unlikely to impact the next state budget, but certainly on the negotiating table in the new legislative year, is the push to revolutionize how New York provides health insurance and health care. Several legislators, long-time and newly elected, are pushing for the New York Health Act, which would establish a single-payer health care system in the state and could cost nearly $140 billion in additional state expenditure by 2022, according to&nbsp;<a href="https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR2424.html">a RAND Corporation study</a>. Though the act could reduce total health care spending by 3 percent by 2031, the study found. Cuomo has said he supports a single-payer system, but has insisted that it should be implemented by the federal government rather than the state, and said that he does not see it make fiscal sense for New York.</p> <p>New York already has one of the largest Medicaid programs in the country, comprising a huge chunk of the state budget (education and Medicaid are the two biggest spending programs). But enrollment has been relatively flat over the last three years. If that trend continues, Friedfel said, the state could find more savings in the budget.</p> <p>Friedfel also noted at least one development on the horizon that could have a significant impact on state tax revenue. “The million pound gorilla in the room is what’s gonna happen with the state’s millionaire’s tax,” Friedfel said. The tax is due to expire on December 31, 2019, and though prominent elected officials have called for extending, and even expanding, the program, CBC’s position is that it should be allowed to sunset to help with the state’s economic competitiveness and to keep high-earners from leaving because of the SALT deduction cap.</p> <p>While Cuomo has overseen its repeated extension and he has dismissed calls to expand it,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8047-tax-issues-at-center-of-new-york-elections-albany-year-to-come">during the recent election cycle</a>&nbsp;he was mum about what he wants to do with the current millionaire’s tax.</p> <p><strong>New York City</strong><br />The city released its latest budget modification in November, revising spending up by $1.4 billion, for a total of $90.56 billion for the 2019 fiscal year, which ends June 30. That marks a high point for city spending, and an $18 billion increase from before de Blasio came to power in 2014. The city’s Office of Management and Budget projects a manageable $3.17 billion budget gap -- the difference between expected revenues and projected expenditures -- for the 2020 fiscal year starting July 1. OMB expects that gap to rise to $3.36 billion for fiscal year 2022, the end of the current four-year financial plan period, by when expenditures are projected to reach a whopping $99.6 billion.</p> <p>As City Comptroller Scott Stringer noted in his <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/annual-state-of-the-citys-economy-and-finances/?utm_source=Media-All&amp;utm_campaign=d8ec0a9cbb-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_12_08_COPY_01&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_term=0_7cd514b03e-d8ec0a9cbb-109199453">latest financial report</a> released on Friday, OMB tends to issue more conservative estimates of revenues in upcoming years, allowing the administration more leeway to adjust spending. Stringer’s report estimates the budget gap to be lower, about $2.6 billion in FY2019 and $2.8 billion in FY2022. &nbsp;</p> <p>“We’ve come out of a run of a number of years of good economic conditions and good fiscal conditions here in the city...but we’re not seeing anything in the numbers that suggests it’s going to end anytime soon,” said Ronnie Lowenstein, director of the Independent Budget Office, a nonpartisan city-funded agency.</p> <p>In a background briefing, an official at Comptroller Stringer’s office acknowledged that there’s significant uncertainty, with even the Federal Reserve appearing divided about where the economy is heading. There are mixed signals in the market -- unemployment is markedly low which should lead to higher inflation, but hasn’t.</p> <p>But the comptroller’s office is cautiously optimistic and no economist currently projects a recession -- though one is never out of the question -- but rather a return to a slower rate of growth by the time 2020 rolls around.</p> <p>“[We’re] expecting a great deal more softness in economic growth,” said IBO’s Lowenstein. “Not a recession but a much softer U.S. economy. And as far as the local economy’s concerned, we’ve already begun to see the weakening.” She pointed to the drop in job growth over the last few months and also noted that though the job market has diversified with more jobs created outside the financial industry than before the last recession, most of the new jobs have been in lower-paying industries.</p> <p>But she said that slower growth won’t create out-of-control deficits. “We’re looking at gaps that are readily manageable, of the size that we’ve managed in the past,” she said.</p> <p>The official from the comptroller’s office agreed that the city has the capacity to manage outyear budget gaps, particularly with a strong budget surplus each year that has allowed the city to maintain a healthy, if not optimal, level of reserves. The de Blasio administration put away added rainy day funds in the current fiscal year, responding to demands from the City Council. The result included a total of $1.25 billion in the general reserve, $4.35 billion in the Retiree Health Benefits Trust Fund, and $250 million in the capital stabilization reserve.</p> <p>The city’s budget cushion has been increasing over the years and stood at about 11.2 percent at the start of the current fiscal year, though the comptroller has urged the administration to maintain levels between 12 and 18 percent, the lower range of which would have required more than $6.3 billion to hit the upper end.</p> <p><strong><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/agenda19v2-a.jpg" alt="agenda19v2 a" width="250" height="127" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" /></a></strong>There are of course various risks that the city must manage. One big vulnerability, according to the official from the comptroller’s office, is the size of the city’s workforce, which has added more than 30,000 workers under de Blasio.</p> <p>“If you look at the November budget update...the biggest issue is the increased expected spending on labor,” said Nicole Gelinas, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a think tank. She noted that <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/omb/downloads/pdf/fp11-18.pdf">the report</a> increased the labor reserve for fiscal year 2020 by $704 million, for 2021 by nearly $1 billion and for 2022 by about $1.4 billion.</p> <p>“It just shows that these labor agreements that the mayor is making with the unions are costing a little bit more money than expected,” she said. “So the basic story is if the economy keeps doing well, we can probably squeak by with balancing next year’s budget...but if the economy does fall into a recession, with the higher labor costs making these deficits a little bit bigger over the next few years, they would pose a bigger problem for the city.”</p> <p>Gelinas said the city must take aggressive cost-cutting measures in labor agreements, particularly health care spending, to help avert layoffs and service cuts in the case of a recession. “Longterm, health care savings have to be much more aggressive,” she said. “The healthcare fringe benefit budget for the upcoming fiscal year will be almost $11.5 billion and it’s continuing to rise. It’s going to $12.5 billion by the end of the financial plan.”</p> <p>“No mayor has ever gotten through two terms without a recession,” she added on the eve of de Blasio’s sixth year in office.</p> <p>The city’s debt obligations have also been rising, owing to a massive capital program, which pays for building and maintaining the city’s infrastructure such as roads, parks, schools, and libraries.</p> <p>“Debt service is one of the two big sources of growth in city spending,” said IBO’s Lowenstein, referring to the annual debt payments that are included in the city’s expense budget. “It’s debt service and healthcare, and they’re both big and they’re both growing very fast.” Debt service -- which is accounted for in the city’s annual operating budget -- is budgeted at a total of $6.8 billion for fiscal year 2019, according to the November update, and is expected to rise to $8.3 billion by fiscal year 2022.</p> <p>Unlike most other municipalities, New York City’s capital program is funded entirely through borrowing, incurring massive debt that must necessarily be paid off every year, which could pose problems in the long run. “It’s less that we can’t continue to pay the debt service on the commitments that we’ve made but rather that they’re crowding out other things that the city might want to do,” Lowenstein said. “And our ability to expand those capital commitments is not unlimited. Especially in an era when interest rates are rising.”</p> <p>Rising debt service also gives the mayor and City Council “less leeway to budget for other things ranging from teachers to cops to road repair,” she said.</p> <p>Stringer has repeatedly raised the issue of rising debt, though it’s not yet out of control. The rule of thumb for his office is that debt service should not exceed 15 percent of tax revenues, a level it is well below currently. And the City Council has also attempted to make changes to the mismanaged capital funding process, creating a new subcommittee this year dedicated to examining the capital budget, finding ways to make it more efficient and reducing cost overruns. Upcoming City Council budget hearings may indicate whether that subcommittee and its focus are having any real impact.</p> <p>But there are big items that may add significantly to the city’s capital investments and therefore create an additional debt burden. Those include funding for the beleaguered New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) and the state-run Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). In both cases, the city may have no choice but to commit billions more dollars, particularly pending the outcome of negotiations with federal officials over NYCHA and with state officials over the MTA, for which the city typically kicks in significant capital funds.</p> <p>“The city may not have choices so the speed with which this occurs may be out of our hands,” Lowenstein said.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1542727012992000&amp;usg=AFQjCNFY2bJ6BA6AesUwakCrfkUOqoU35A">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - This article has been updated to ntoe that the Capital Stabilization Reserve is $250 million, not $250 billion.&nbsp;</p>
What's The [Data] Point? $225 million, with Comptroller Scott Stringer 2018-06-21T04:00:00+00:00 2018-06-21T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7755-what-s-the-data-point-225-million-with-comptroller-scott-stringer Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/whats-the-data-point.jpg" alt="whats the data point" width="600" height="600" /></p> <hr /> <p><strong>What's The [Data] Point? Episode 44</strong><strong> -- $225 million,&nbsp;with Comptroller Scott Stringer [You can download What's The [Data] Point? wherever you get your podcasts, including on iTunes]</strong></p> <!--<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/wtdp-w-cbrecher-120.jpg" alt="wtdp w cbrecher 120" width="440" height="120" style="display: block; margin: 10px auto;" /></p>--> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/stringer-wtdp.jpg" alt="stringer wtdp" width="277" height="174" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" /></p> <p>City Comptroller Scott Stringer is responsible for overseeing city finances and for managing the city's massive pension funds. He joined the podcast to discuss the newly-passed $89 billion city budget, the city's broader financial picture, whether the Mayor and City Council are putting enough money in reserves, the three city agencies on his new "watch list," how he approaches his role as an "activist-fiduciary" of the pension funds, and more.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think: Ben Max of GG (<a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax</a>), Maria Doulis of CBC (<a href="https://twitter.com/MariaDoulis" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@MariaDoulis</a>). Listen below or download wherever you get your podcasts!</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/461481108&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="170" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/whats-the-data-point.jpg" alt="whats the data point" width="600" height="600" /></p> <hr /> <p><strong>What's The [Data] Point? Episode 44</strong><strong> -- $225 million,&nbsp;with Comptroller Scott Stringer [You can download What's The [Data] Point? wherever you get your podcasts, including on iTunes]</strong></p> <!--<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/wtdp-w-cbrecher-120.jpg" alt="wtdp w cbrecher 120" width="440" height="120" style="display: block; margin: 10px auto;" /></p>--> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/stringer-wtdp.jpg" alt="stringer wtdp" width="277" height="174" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" /></p> <p>City Comptroller Scott Stringer is responsible for overseeing city finances and for managing the city's massive pension funds. He joined the podcast to discuss the newly-passed $89 billion city budget, the city's broader financial picture, whether the Mayor and City Council are putting enough money in reserves, the three city agencies on his new "watch list," how he approaches his role as an "activist-fiduciary" of the pension funds, and more.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think: Ben Max of GG (<a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax</a>), Maria Doulis of CBC (<a href="https://twitter.com/MariaDoulis" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@MariaDoulis</a>). Listen below or download wherever you get your podcasts!</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/461481108&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="170" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
City Council Push for Budget Transparency Falls Far Short 2018-06-20T04:00:00+00:00 2018-06-20T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7756-city-council-push-for-budget-transparency-falls-far-short Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/41843779605_e3c8577c07_z.jpg" alt="De Blasio City Council members" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Johnson, de Blasio, Dromm (l-r) (photo: John McCarten)</p> <hr /> <p>At several budget hearings earlier this year, New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson took a hard line on transparency. He insisted that Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration was being less than forthcoming on how money is spent and was hampering the Council’s charter-mandated authority to review and approve the city’s spending plan. To wit, in its official response to the mayor’s preliminary budget in April, the Council proposed adding 123 new units of appropriation -- budget lines that explain expenditures -- in order to more clearly and specifically show what the city is spending money on.</p> <p>When the city’s <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7731-de-blasio-and-city-council-agree-on-89-2-billion-budget-funding-key-council-priorities" target="_blank" rel="noopener">new $89.2 billion budget</a> was approved last week, however, the Mayor’s Office of Management and Budget only added a total of five new units.</p> <p>“We’re going to work with the Council,” de Blasio promised at at the release of his executive budget proposal in late April, two weeks after the Council’s response, when Gotham Gazette inquired about the push for more units of appropriations. “We have, over the years, been adding. We’re open to adding more. That’s an ongoing discussion, which we’ve had again today with the Council. Stay tuned.”</p> <p>But there was little news to stay tuned for. The five new lines in the adopted budget include four under the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications -- two each for the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MoME) and the NYC Cyber Command office which both fall under DoITT’s purview. Those units are for personal services (PS) which covers salaries and wages of agency employees, and other than personal services (OTPS) which includes costs such as office supplies, equipment, maintenance, and the like. In total, those budget lines cover $25.2 million in expenditures for MoME and $65.8 million for the Cyber Command.</p> <p>The fifth unit of appropriation was created under the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, to allow the Council to look at expense funding allocated for the New York City Housing Authority, about $255.4 million for the 2019 fiscal year, which begins July 1 of this year.</p> <p>It should be noted that the separate capital budget, which outlines city spending on infrastructure,includes six new budget lines -- one for the Brooklyn Public Library and five within Parks Department expenditures.</p> <p>In April, at a hearing on a mid-year modification to the current annual expense budget, the Council <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7651-city-council-takes-harder-line-on-mid-year-budget-modifications" target="_blank" rel="noopener">first showed indications</a> that it wouldn’t approve OMB’s requests without greater disclosure from the administration. Then, at a May hearing on the executive budget, prior to the new units of appropriation being added, Council Member Daniel Dromm, the chair of the Council’s finance committee, which leads the budget process at the Council, excoriated OMB officials for their refusal to be more transparent, insisting that the administration “must discontinue the longstanding practice of using vague and overbroad units of appropriation” over more specific ones.</p> <p>Dromm continued, “While such a shift is understandably resisted by the Mayor because it would restrict his ability to transfer funds between programs without oversight and to avoid seeking budget modification approval from the Council, it is necessary to facilitate the Council’s and the public’s understanding of agency spending and performance and to more transparently track the Administration’s priorities.”</p> <p>But the Council’s response to Gotham Gazette’s queries about the units of appropriation were more tempered. “[The] Council is very pleased with the end results of this budget process and is committed to more transparency measures, including continuing the push for more lines of appropriation,” said Jennifer Fermino, a spokesperson for the speaker, in a statement.</p> <p>A spokesperson for Council Member Dromm did not respond to a request for comment.</p> <p>Maria Doulis, vice president of Citizens Budget Commission, an independent fiscal watchdog that advocates for increased budget transparency, among other changes, said the Council’s push for transparency likely fell by the wayside as it negotiated larger priorities such as discounted MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers.</p> <p>“It might be best to come to some sort of agreement about this outside the budget because when you’re negotiating a budget, it’s all about the dollars and cents and not necessarily how the dollars and cents are presented,” Doulis said in a phone interview. She said the five new units are a “micro step forward” and that the Council must remain committed to a long-term approach, which could happen through a dedicated working group.</p> <p>She also noted that the City Council has failed to push for transparency at crucial moments. She pointed out, for instance, that the mayor announced a new labor deal with the United Federation of Teachers on Wednesday but without details of how the spending will be reflected in the city budget. “So all these Council members are on this press release and they’re happy to laud and support this effort,” Doulis said, “but I didn’t hear any of them saying, ‘And we’d like to see a full accounting of what exactly the city will be paying for on this.’ So I don’t know that transparency is any better or worse than it was last year, or a couple of years ago under Mayor Bloomberg. In my mind it’s pretty much the same or marginally better.”</p> <p>Although Doulis did say that the city’s budget is enormous and complex, and that the administration does publish more budget documents than other local governments, she said there should nonetheless be improvements. “The question is, can the average citizen ask a basic question about services that he or she cares about and their costs and look in the budget to find an answer fairly simply and easily,” she said, “and the answer to that is ‘no.’”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/41843779605_e3c8577c07_z.jpg" alt="De Blasio City Council members" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Johnson, de Blasio, Dromm (l-r) (photo: John McCarten)</p> <hr /> <p>At several budget hearings earlier this year, New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson took a hard line on transparency. He insisted that Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration was being less than forthcoming on how money is spent and was hampering the Council’s charter-mandated authority to review and approve the city’s spending plan. To wit, in its official response to the mayor’s preliminary budget in April, the Council proposed adding 123 new units of appropriation -- budget lines that explain expenditures -- in order to more clearly and specifically show what the city is spending money on.</p> <p>When the city’s <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7731-de-blasio-and-city-council-agree-on-89-2-billion-budget-funding-key-council-priorities" target="_blank" rel="noopener">new $89.2 billion budget</a> was approved last week, however, the Mayor’s Office of Management and Budget only added a total of five new units.</p> <p>“We’re going to work with the Council,” de Blasio promised at at the release of his executive budget proposal in late April, two weeks after the Council’s response, when Gotham Gazette inquired about the push for more units of appropriations. “We have, over the years, been adding. We’re open to adding more. That’s an ongoing discussion, which we’ve had again today with the Council. Stay tuned.”</p> <p>But there was little news to stay tuned for. The five new lines in the adopted budget include four under the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications -- two each for the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MoME) and the NYC Cyber Command office which both fall under DoITT’s purview. Those units are for personal services (PS) which covers salaries and wages of agency employees, and other than personal services (OTPS) which includes costs such as office supplies, equipment, maintenance, and the like. In total, those budget lines cover $25.2 million in expenditures for MoME and $65.8 million for the Cyber Command.</p> <p>The fifth unit of appropriation was created under the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, to allow the Council to look at expense funding allocated for the New York City Housing Authority, about $255.4 million for the 2019 fiscal year, which begins July 1 of this year.</p> <p>It should be noted that the separate capital budget, which outlines city spending on infrastructure,includes six new budget lines -- one for the Brooklyn Public Library and five within Parks Department expenditures.</p> <p>In April, at a hearing on a mid-year modification to the current annual expense budget, the Council <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7651-city-council-takes-harder-line-on-mid-year-budget-modifications" target="_blank" rel="noopener">first showed indications</a> that it wouldn’t approve OMB’s requests without greater disclosure from the administration. Then, at a May hearing on the executive budget, prior to the new units of appropriation being added, Council Member Daniel Dromm, the chair of the Council’s finance committee, which leads the budget process at the Council, excoriated OMB officials for their refusal to be more transparent, insisting that the administration “must discontinue the longstanding practice of using vague and overbroad units of appropriation” over more specific ones.</p> <p>Dromm continued, “While such a shift is understandably resisted by the Mayor because it would restrict his ability to transfer funds between programs without oversight and to avoid seeking budget modification approval from the Council, it is necessary to facilitate the Council’s and the public’s understanding of agency spending and performance and to more transparently track the Administration’s priorities.”</p> <p>But the Council’s response to Gotham Gazette’s queries about the units of appropriation were more tempered. “[The] Council is very pleased with the end results of this budget process and is committed to more transparency measures, including continuing the push for more lines of appropriation,” said Jennifer Fermino, a spokesperson for the speaker, in a statement.</p> <p>A spokesperson for Council Member Dromm did not respond to a request for comment.</p> <p>Maria Doulis, vice president of Citizens Budget Commission, an independent fiscal watchdog that advocates for increased budget transparency, among other changes, said the Council’s push for transparency likely fell by the wayside as it negotiated larger priorities such as discounted MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers.</p> <p>“It might be best to come to some sort of agreement about this outside the budget because when you’re negotiating a budget, it’s all about the dollars and cents and not necessarily how the dollars and cents are presented,” Doulis said in a phone interview. She said the five new units are a “micro step forward” and that the Council must remain committed to a long-term approach, which could happen through a dedicated working group.</p> <p>She also noted that the City Council has failed to push for transparency at crucial moments. She pointed out, for instance, that the mayor announced a new labor deal with the United Federation of Teachers on Wednesday but without details of how the spending will be reflected in the city budget. “So all these Council members are on this press release and they’re happy to laud and support this effort,” Doulis said, “but I didn’t hear any of them saying, ‘And we’d like to see a full accounting of what exactly the city will be paying for on this.’ So I don’t know that transparency is any better or worse than it was last year, or a couple of years ago under Mayor Bloomberg. In my mind it’s pretty much the same or marginally better.”</p> <p>Although Doulis did say that the city’s budget is enormous and complex, and that the administration does publish more budget documents than other local governments, she said there should nonetheless be improvements. “The question is, can the average citizen ask a basic question about services that he or she cares about and their costs and look in the budget to find an answer fairly simply and easily,” she said, “and the answer to that is ‘no.’”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
Added Scrutiny of City’s Delinquent Contracting Practices 2018-06-19T04:00:00+00:00 2018-06-19T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7748-added-scrutiny-of-city-s-delinquent-contracting-practices Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/cm-stephlevin-ant-reynoso.jpg" alt="cm stephlevin ant reynoso" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Council Member Levin (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>The new city <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/omb/downloads/pdf/erc4-18.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">budget</a> does not do enough to address the tremendous backlog of city contracts with nonprofit groups that have been left languishing by city agencies, the groups say. This comes after a recent <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/running-late-an-analysis-of-nyc-agency-contracts/#_ednref1" target="_blank" rel="noopener">report</a> from the city comptroller that shows 81 percent of new and renewed contracts were registered retroactively, meaning after their start date, last fiscal year. Human services were the most affected, with more than 90 percent of contracts in this category submitted retroactively to the comptroller’s office by city agencies, half of them late by six months or more.</p> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council recently agreed to a $89.2 billion operating budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Though it continues to increase spending at various city agencies that rely on human services nonprofits, there is no accompanying deal to address the rampant contracting delays across city agencies.</p> <p>The problem of contract delays affects cash flow and services to the public, and also compounds other issues, such as contracts not accounting enough for overhead expenses, that together contribute to a financial crisis for many organizations that the city contracts with to provide vital services from homeless shelters to after school programs.</p> <p>“It needs to be a priority of this administration to fix the backlog in contract registration and also the significant amount of contract amendments that are pending from investments the city made last year: money that was announced on July 1 of 2017 that providers still have not gotten in June of 2018,” said Michelle Jackson, spokesperson for the Human Services Advancement Strategy Group (HSASG), in an interview last week. The group, which consists of nine associations and represents some 2,000 human services provider organizations in New York City, will be testifying at a City Council <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=605915&amp;GUID=E847EE2B-9412-4205-B4B2-D7FE144D23D8&amp;Options=info&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener">oversight hearing</a> on the issue at City Hall this Thursday, June 21. “There really needs to be a focus on getting all of those amendments and registrations up to date,” Jackson added.</p> <p>The delay in the city’s procurement process means vendors -- predominately nonprofits in the human services sector -- are forced to either fund their own work while they wait for the city to register and approve their contracts, or delay starting operations entirely. For providers waiting to have their contracts renewed, Jackson said, “they have to just keep operating the service because you don’t just send all the kids home, you don’t kick everyone out of the shelter. It’s not like a construction project where you can just wait to get all your documents signed…Nonprofits are taking a real fiscal and legal liability by waiting for these contracts.”</p> <p>It’s a system in “dire need of reform,” according to Comptroller Scott Stringer’s <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/running-late-an-analysis-of-nyc-agency-contracts/#_ednref1" target="_blank" rel="noopener">report</a>. In a statement to Gotham Gazette last week, Stringer’s spokesperson added: “One of city government’s most important jobs is delivering services to New Yorkers in need – that’s why fixing the city procurement process is urgent and essential. Providing services to our most vulnerable residents depends on our ability to execute social service contracts expediently.”</p> <p>The next step in addressing the issue is this week’s hearing of the City Council Committees on Contracts and General Welfare at City Hall, which will be co-chaired by Brooklyn Council Members Justin Brannan and Stephen Levin, the respective chairs of those committees. The “process has to be sped up,” Levin said.</p> <p>“These providers are operating at significant deficit and often we engage with providers that are doing a lot of the work that we would like to see providers do, and they are doing it on their own fundraising,” Levin told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>The backlog is also putting pressure on the city’s Returnable Grant Fund, a revolving fund providing interest-free loans to nonprofits. February testimony from Acting Chair of the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services, Dan Symon, to the City Council was referenced in the comptroller’s report, claiming the Fund processed 751 loans for nonprofits in fiscal year 2017 as a “direct result of delayed contract awards.” The combined total of these loans was $149.9 million.</p> <p>“We need to make sure we are providing services equitably across the board,” Levin said. “That when you go to shelter you’re not just lucking out in getting into a good provider or a provider that’s has the ability to raise significant money versus a provider that can’t. That’s not an equitable system.”</p> <p>Mayor de Blasio and his administration were widely criticized following the release of Stringer’s report, with questions raised about the progressive mayor’s commitment to human services organizations and their clients. The issues raised by the comptroller’s report are longstanding and nonprofits groups and their supporters <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6266-city-approach-to-nonprofit-contracting-questioned" target="_blank" rel="noopener">have been lobbying city government to improve the process for sometime</a>.</p> <p>In a statement to Gotham Gazette last week, a City Hall spokesperson said the mayor’s office has been working to reduce contracting backlogs and that model budgets -- a system introduced this year designed to increase rates for providers funded below what is considered the ‘model’ to deliver appropriate service -- will help these departments fulfil their administrative duties to outside contractors. &nbsp;</p> <p>“We’ve invested more than a quarter-billion new dollars annually in our shelter provider partners to address decades of disinvestment and reform outdated rates they were paid for many years,” the spokesperson said. “We have also been working closely with these vital partners to resolve inherited contracting backlogs, implement model budgets for the first time ever, and address any outstanding challenges they may have to ensure they can deliver the services our neighbors in need deserve as they get back on their feet.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Due to this work in resolving contracting issues, the City Hall spokesperson said this year is the first time in recent memory that providers will be operating with registered current contracts. As of May 2018, 97 percent of fiscal year 2018 contracts are registered and active, with only one contract still at the comptroller’s office and another contract pending provider budget submission.</p> <p>According to the comptroller’s report, the seven city agencies that contract for the majority of human service programs are: the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), Department of Education (DOE), Department of Youth &amp; Community Development (DYCD), Department for the Aging (DFTA), Department of Homeless Services (DHS), Human Resources Administration (HRA), and Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH).</p> <p>All of these departments submitted more than half of their registration and renewal contracts retroactively to the comptroller’s office last year. DHS and HRA submitted 100 percent of these contracts retroactively, and the DOE was at 99.8 percent of registration and renewal contracts submitted after their start date. In HRA’s case, more than 60 percent of retroactive contracts were submitted to the comptroller’s office more than six months after the contract was due to start.</p> <p>Despite the backlog, some departments are set to receive less funding in fiscal year 2019 than in the current, soon-to-end fiscal year, according to the city <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/omb/downloads/pdf/erc4-18.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">budget</a> that was released on Monday June 12.</p> <p>DYCD, for example, is receiving about $121 million less in funding via the city budget this financial year, yet of 859 registered or renewed contracts it received last year, 795 (92.5 percent) were submitted retroactively, according to the comptroller’s <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/running-late-an-analysis-of-nyc-agency-contracts/#_ednref1" target="_blank" rel="noopener">report</a>. Similarly, DOHMH is allocated $112 million less in fiscal 2019 than it was in 2018, and of 314 new and renewed contracts it handled last fiscal year, 265 (or 84.4 percent) were submitted after their start date.</p> <p>When asked if the budget has allocated enough resources to these city agencies that are struggling with contracting, Council Member Brannan said: “This is something we intend to discuss at the hearing on the 21st, both from the administration side as well as what the providers think. I am committed to working with the Speaker, Administration, as well as the Comptroller, to ensure we are processing contracts in as swift a manner as possible so that vital services are not being jeopardized due to procedural snafus that can be remedied.”</p> <p>“I hope that through our hearing we can shed light on the administration’s progress implementing model budgeting across different agencies as well as seeing how the providers are faring with model budgeting,” Brannan added. &nbsp;</p> <p>DHS and the DOE, which respectively submitted 100 percent and 99.8 percent of contracts retroactively to the comptroller’s office last year, are both receiving an increase in funding for the upcoming fiscal year. According to the city’s preliminary budget, DHS is receiving more than $183 million in additional funding compared to the current fiscal year and DOE is budgeted an additional $1.2 billion.</p> <p>Speaking to Gotham Gazette, Council Member Levin said the Council’s preliminary budget hearing with DHS dealt largely with where the increased funding is going and he is confident the additional funding will help the agency in improving contract delays.</p> <p>“In our preliminary budget hearing with DHS, we did talk a lot about where a lot of the increased funding is going and they spoke a lot about the model budget contract,” Levin said. “So we’re expecting that it should be able to be covered in the significant increases in budget year-over-year in DHS. I have every expectation that they’ll be able to be covered it for sure. And if they’re not, there’s opportunities to do budget modifications.”</p> <p>“We need a system that’s set up that can afford the services that we need to provide for over 60,000 people in shelter ...” Levin continued. “We need to make sure that the providers are funded enough so that they can provide adequate services.”</p> <p>Comptroller Stringer's report makes two recommendations for improving the processing of contracts within city agencies: to stipulate deadlines for every agency that handles contract applications and to implement a transparent tracking system for vendors to follow their applications through the process. But the report also describes an extremely cumbersome system, weighed down in bureaucracy, in which up to five departments sometimes will handle a contract before it reaches the comptroller’s office -- the only agency with a deadline, which is 30 days -- where it is ultimately approved or kicked back to city agencies for more processing.</p> <p>“What we’re looking at now is 100 percent late registration [from some departments] and what’s going to happen today and tomorrow to get that fixed?” Jackson, of the Human Services Advancement Strategy Group, said, adding that while she “absolutely agrees” with the comptroller’s recommendations, “a tracking system and a timeline are not going to fix the backlog” already in existence.</p> <p>The HSASG is calling for a “SWAT Team” to immediately help clear the backlog, as well as allocation and recognition of this in the budget. Jackson said the group is asking for an additional $200 million to human services, not only to fix the contracting delays, but to also go to areas such as benefits, insurance, and occupancy costs.</p> <p>“A lot of these contracts don’t have cost escalators, and obviously in New York City rent goes up every year (a lot of expenses go up), and there’s not a way to capture that,” Jackson said. “Of course we were disappointed to not see further investment in the sector but we appreciate it’s a long-term investment that needs to be made.”</p> <p>Brannan said he “supports the recommendations” laid out in the comptroller’s report and that he is “working with the Comptroller’s office to come up with potential legislative fixes that would provide for agencies to process city contracts within a much more reasonable period of time.” He said he’s spoken to the Mayor's Office of Contract Services about next phases in rolling out the city’s Procurement and Sourcing Solutions Portal (PASSPort), saying it “in theory should significantly reduce procurement delays.”</p> <p>The spokesperson from City Hall also said the planned updates to PASSport will “make it easier for agencies to order and pay for goods off centralized contracts.” The system, which was initially launched in August 2017, will be updated with “phase two” in 2019 and “phase three” will launch approximately one year later to “enable online bidding and invoice management for all agencies,” the spokesperson said. &nbsp;</p> <p>New York City isn’t the first city to require urgent and comprehensive procurement reform. A 2005 report by the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR) on fixing that city’s similarly “slow and burdensome” contracting system provided the administration with a range of recommendations that might be applicable in New York City today. These included, not only fixed deadlines for every department and a transparent tracking system, but also recommendations to increase public information and awareness of the city’s contracting system; allow simultaneous review by agencies; develop clear and explicit procedures for fast-tracking contracts; and use a post-audit approach to test compliance by departments, instead of every single contract moving through the comptroller’s office.</p> <p>There is no indication of any other measures being taken to address the contracting backlog in New York City, though the City Hall spokesperson said: “We are continuously looking to improve our practices to also realize timely procurement.”</p> <p>More ideas will likely be raised at Thursday’s Council hearing, but for those in the nonprofit sector, the fiscal year 2019 budget was the perfect place for the city to demonstrate its understanding of, and commitment to solving, the problem. “We would have liked to see it in the budget, even if it was just a statement about how to get all this money out the door,” Jackson said. “I think there needs to be a real recognition that this is a priority to fix the registration process and it needs to happen right away.”</p> <p>

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by Caitlin Bishop, Gotham Gazette
@caitybishop  @GothamGazette

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/cm-stephlevin-ant-reynoso.jpg" alt="cm stephlevin ant reynoso" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Council Member Levin (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>The new city <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/omb/downloads/pdf/erc4-18.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">budget</a> does not do enough to address the tremendous backlog of city contracts with nonprofit groups that have been left languishing by city agencies, the groups say. This comes after a recent <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/running-late-an-analysis-of-nyc-agency-contracts/#_ednref1" target="_blank" rel="noopener">report</a> from the city comptroller that shows 81 percent of new and renewed contracts were registered retroactively, meaning after their start date, last fiscal year. Human services were the most affected, with more than 90 percent of contracts in this category submitted retroactively to the comptroller’s office by city agencies, half of them late by six months or more.</p> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council recently agreed to a $89.2 billion operating budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Though it continues to increase spending at various city agencies that rely on human services nonprofits, there is no accompanying deal to address the rampant contracting delays across city agencies.</p> <p>The problem of contract delays affects cash flow and services to the public, and also compounds other issues, such as contracts not accounting enough for overhead expenses, that together contribute to a financial crisis for many organizations that the city contracts with to provide vital services from homeless shelters to after school programs.</p> <p>“It needs to be a priority of this administration to fix the backlog in contract registration and also the significant amount of contract amendments that are pending from investments the city made last year: money that was announced on July 1 of 2017 that providers still have not gotten in June of 2018,” said Michelle Jackson, spokesperson for the Human Services Advancement Strategy Group (HSASG), in an interview last week. The group, which consists of nine associations and represents some 2,000 human services provider organizations in New York City, will be testifying at a City Council <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=605915&amp;GUID=E847EE2B-9412-4205-B4B2-D7FE144D23D8&amp;Options=info&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener">oversight hearing</a> on the issue at City Hall this Thursday, June 21. “There really needs to be a focus on getting all of those amendments and registrations up to date,” Jackson added.</p> <p>The delay in the city’s procurement process means vendors -- predominately nonprofits in the human services sector -- are forced to either fund their own work while they wait for the city to register and approve their contracts, or delay starting operations entirely. For providers waiting to have their contracts renewed, Jackson said, “they have to just keep operating the service because you don’t just send all the kids home, you don’t kick everyone out of the shelter. It’s not like a construction project where you can just wait to get all your documents signed…Nonprofits are taking a real fiscal and legal liability by waiting for these contracts.”</p> <p>It’s a system in “dire need of reform,” according to Comptroller Scott Stringer’s <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/running-late-an-analysis-of-nyc-agency-contracts/#_ednref1" target="_blank" rel="noopener">report</a>. In a statement to Gotham Gazette last week, Stringer’s spokesperson added: “One of city government’s most important jobs is delivering services to New Yorkers in need – that’s why fixing the city procurement process is urgent and essential. Providing services to our most vulnerable residents depends on our ability to execute social service contracts expediently.”</p> <p>The next step in addressing the issue is this week’s hearing of the City Council Committees on Contracts and General Welfare at City Hall, which will be co-chaired by Brooklyn Council Members Justin Brannan and Stephen Levin, the respective chairs of those committees. The “process has to be sped up,” Levin said.</p> <p>“These providers are operating at significant deficit and often we engage with providers that are doing a lot of the work that we would like to see providers do, and they are doing it on their own fundraising,” Levin told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>The backlog is also putting pressure on the city’s Returnable Grant Fund, a revolving fund providing interest-free loans to nonprofits. February testimony from Acting Chair of the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services, Dan Symon, to the City Council was referenced in the comptroller’s report, claiming the Fund processed 751 loans for nonprofits in fiscal year 2017 as a “direct result of delayed contract awards.” The combined total of these loans was $149.9 million.</p> <p>“We need to make sure we are providing services equitably across the board,” Levin said. “That when you go to shelter you’re not just lucking out in getting into a good provider or a provider that’s has the ability to raise significant money versus a provider that can’t. That’s not an equitable system.”</p> <p>Mayor de Blasio and his administration were widely criticized following the release of Stringer’s report, with questions raised about the progressive mayor’s commitment to human services organizations and their clients. The issues raised by the comptroller’s report are longstanding and nonprofits groups and their supporters <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6266-city-approach-to-nonprofit-contracting-questioned" target="_blank" rel="noopener">have been lobbying city government to improve the process for sometime</a>.</p> <p>In a statement to Gotham Gazette last week, a City Hall spokesperson said the mayor’s office has been working to reduce contracting backlogs and that model budgets -- a system introduced this year designed to increase rates for providers funded below what is considered the ‘model’ to deliver appropriate service -- will help these departments fulfil their administrative duties to outside contractors. &nbsp;</p> <p>“We’ve invested more than a quarter-billion new dollars annually in our shelter provider partners to address decades of disinvestment and reform outdated rates they were paid for many years,” the spokesperson said. “We have also been working closely with these vital partners to resolve inherited contracting backlogs, implement model budgets for the first time ever, and address any outstanding challenges they may have to ensure they can deliver the services our neighbors in need deserve as they get back on their feet.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Due to this work in resolving contracting issues, the City Hall spokesperson said this year is the first time in recent memory that providers will be operating with registered current contracts. As of May 2018, 97 percent of fiscal year 2018 contracts are registered and active, with only one contract still at the comptroller’s office and another contract pending provider budget submission.</p> <p>According to the comptroller’s report, the seven city agencies that contract for the majority of human service programs are: the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), Department of Education (DOE), Department of Youth &amp; Community Development (DYCD), Department for the Aging (DFTA), Department of Homeless Services (DHS), Human Resources Administration (HRA), and Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH).</p> <p>All of these departments submitted more than half of their registration and renewal contracts retroactively to the comptroller’s office last year. DHS and HRA submitted 100 percent of these contracts retroactively, and the DOE was at 99.8 percent of registration and renewal contracts submitted after their start date. In HRA’s case, more than 60 percent of retroactive contracts were submitted to the comptroller’s office more than six months after the contract was due to start.</p> <p>Despite the backlog, some departments are set to receive less funding in fiscal year 2019 than in the current, soon-to-end fiscal year, according to the city <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/omb/downloads/pdf/erc4-18.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">budget</a> that was released on Monday June 12.</p> <p>DYCD, for example, is receiving about $121 million less in funding via the city budget this financial year, yet of 859 registered or renewed contracts it received last year, 795 (92.5 percent) were submitted retroactively, according to the comptroller’s <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/running-late-an-analysis-of-nyc-agency-contracts/#_ednref1" target="_blank" rel="noopener">report</a>. Similarly, DOHMH is allocated $112 million less in fiscal 2019 than it was in 2018, and of 314 new and renewed contracts it handled last fiscal year, 265 (or 84.4 percent) were submitted after their start date.</p> <p>When asked if the budget has allocated enough resources to these city agencies that are struggling with contracting, Council Member Brannan said: “This is something we intend to discuss at the hearing on the 21st, both from the administration side as well as what the providers think. I am committed to working with the Speaker, Administration, as well as the Comptroller, to ensure we are processing contracts in as swift a manner as possible so that vital services are not being jeopardized due to procedural snafus that can be remedied.”</p> <p>“I hope that through our hearing we can shed light on the administration’s progress implementing model budgeting across different agencies as well as seeing how the providers are faring with model budgeting,” Brannan added. &nbsp;</p> <p>DHS and the DOE, which respectively submitted 100 percent and 99.8 percent of contracts retroactively to the comptroller’s office last year, are both receiving an increase in funding for the upcoming fiscal year. According to the city’s preliminary budget, DHS is receiving more than $183 million in additional funding compared to the current fiscal year and DOE is budgeted an additional $1.2 billion.</p> <p>Speaking to Gotham Gazette, Council Member Levin said the Council’s preliminary budget hearing with DHS dealt largely with where the increased funding is going and he is confident the additional funding will help the agency in improving contract delays.</p> <p>“In our preliminary budget hearing with DHS, we did talk a lot about where a lot of the increased funding is going and they spoke a lot about the model budget contract,” Levin said. “So we’re expecting that it should be able to be covered in the significant increases in budget year-over-year in DHS. I have every expectation that they’ll be able to be covered it for sure. And if they’re not, there’s opportunities to do budget modifications.”</p> <p>“We need a system that’s set up that can afford the services that we need to provide for over 60,000 people in shelter ...” Levin continued. “We need to make sure that the providers are funded enough so that they can provide adequate services.”</p> <p>Comptroller Stringer's report makes two recommendations for improving the processing of contracts within city agencies: to stipulate deadlines for every agency that handles contract applications and to implement a transparent tracking system for vendors to follow their applications through the process. But the report also describes an extremely cumbersome system, weighed down in bureaucracy, in which up to five departments sometimes will handle a contract before it reaches the comptroller’s office -- the only agency with a deadline, which is 30 days -- where it is ultimately approved or kicked back to city agencies for more processing.</p> <p>“What we’re looking at now is 100 percent late registration [from some departments] and what’s going to happen today and tomorrow to get that fixed?” Jackson, of the Human Services Advancement Strategy Group, said, adding that while she “absolutely agrees” with the comptroller’s recommendations, “a tracking system and a timeline are not going to fix the backlog” already in existence.</p> <p>The HSASG is calling for a “SWAT Team” to immediately help clear the backlog, as well as allocation and recognition of this in the budget. Jackson said the group is asking for an additional $200 million to human services, not only to fix the contracting delays, but to also go to areas such as benefits, insurance, and occupancy costs.</p> <p>“A lot of these contracts don’t have cost escalators, and obviously in New York City rent goes up every year (a lot of expenses go up), and there’s not a way to capture that,” Jackson said. “Of course we were disappointed to not see further investment in the sector but we appreciate it’s a long-term investment that needs to be made.”</p> <p>Brannan said he “supports the recommendations” laid out in the comptroller’s report and that he is “working with the Comptroller’s office to come up with potential legislative fixes that would provide for agencies to process city contracts within a much more reasonable period of time.” He said he’s spoken to the Mayor's Office of Contract Services about next phases in rolling out the city’s Procurement and Sourcing Solutions Portal (PASSPort), saying it “in theory should significantly reduce procurement delays.”</p> <p>The spokesperson from City Hall also said the planned updates to PASSport will “make it easier for agencies to order and pay for goods off centralized contracts.” The system, which was initially launched in August 2017, will be updated with “phase two” in 2019 and “phase three” will launch approximately one year later to “enable online bidding and invoice management for all agencies,” the spokesperson said. &nbsp;</p> <p>New York City isn’t the first city to require urgent and comprehensive procurement reform. A 2005 report by the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR) on fixing that city’s similarly “slow and burdensome” contracting system provided the administration with a range of recommendations that might be applicable in New York City today. These included, not only fixed deadlines for every department and a transparent tracking system, but also recommendations to increase public information and awareness of the city’s contracting system; allow simultaneous review by agencies; develop clear and explicit procedures for fast-tracking contracts; and use a post-audit approach to test compliance by departments, instead of every single contract moving through the comptroller’s office.</p> <p>There is no indication of any other measures being taken to address the contracting backlog in New York City, though the City Hall spokesperson said: “We are continuously looking to improve our practices to also realize timely procurement.”</p> <p>More ideas will likely be raised at Thursday’s Council hearing, but for those in the nonprofit sector, the fiscal year 2019 budget was the perfect place for the city to demonstrate its understanding of, and commitment to solving, the problem. “We would have liked to see it in the budget, even if it was just a statement about how to get all this money out the door,” Jackson said. “I think there needs to be a real recognition that this is a priority to fix the registration process and it needs to happen right away.”</p> <p>

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by Caitlin Bishop, Gotham Gazette
@caitybishop  @GothamGazette

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A Supportive Housing Victory, and Much More To Do 2018-06-18T04:00:00+00:00 2018-06-18T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/7743-a-supportive-housing-victory-and-much-more-to-do Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/salamanca-levin-2.jpg" alt="salamanca levin 2" /></p> <p>Council Members Levin &amp; Salamanca, the authors, foreground (photo: Jeff Reed)</p> <hr /> <p>New York City is facing a crisis. There are more than 60,000 homeless individuals living in the city shelter system daily, and thousands more in shelters for survivors of domestic violence, youth, and those living with HIV/AIDS. An additional estimated 4,000 New Yorkers sleep on the streets each night. And according to the <a href="http://www.coalitionforthehomeless.org/basic-facts-about-homelessness-new-york-city/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Coalition for the Homeless</a>, the number of homeless New Yorkers sleeping each night in municipal shelters is 83 percent higher than it was a decade ago.</p> <p>These numbers are staggering. We, as elected leaders have a responsibility to do better and fully invest in solutions that work.</p> <p>That is why, as moderators at this year’s New York State Supportive Housing Conference, we are proud to champion the city’s efforts to build more supportive housing -- a critical component of the City’s efforts to combat the homelessness crisis. We’re proud that the new city budget recently agreed upon by the Mayor and City Council, which we are members of, increased from 500 to 700 the supportive housing units that will become available in the next fiscal year. There is still much more to do.</p> <p>Supportive housing is permanent affordable housing paired with wrap-around services designed to help people maintain their homes for the long-term. All tenants have a lease, and are provided with individualized on-site care, including case management, job training, and mental health and substance abuse counseling. Supportive housing developments are run by non-profit organizations that typically provide both support services and management.</p> <p>Last year, the City Council General Welfare Committee held a hearing in The Schermerhorn, a supportive housing building that also contains affordable housing units for community members and artists, along with a theater for the public. It is a good example of how these developments create jobs and contribute to the growth and well-being of a neighborhood.</p> <p>Supportive housing’s track record has shown its effectiveness in ending homelessness, and &nbsp;improving neighborhoods, creating much-needed affordable housing and saving taxpayer dollars. Simply put, it is housing for those most in need. Residents have a place to call home in an environment that provides direct case management and access to mental health providers. We know all too well how vital mental health care is to a person’s wellbeing, and is that much more critical for individuals who are unstably housed and have often faced significant trauma. The integrated service model enables people to connect to the programs that are right for them, helping them to lead their best lives.</p> <p>Organizations like the Supportive Housing Network of New York, comprised of more than 200 nonprofit organizations, link the 50,000 units of supportive housing they’ve created with critical services and programs that give New Yorkers a jumpstart on advancing the lives they want to lead through a more holistic approach.</p> <p>Supportive housing has made a world of difference to New Yorkers:</p> <p>Like Robert, who struggled with mental illness and addiction most of his life, living in Madison Square Park for ten years. After a health emergency, Urban Pathways’ outreach team helped him move into a beautiful new apartment in his native Bronx. He’s an active participant in his building and in client advocacy groups, regularly visits with his mother and grandchildren, and is beloved by residents and staff alike.</p> <p>And like Shannon, who has dealt with undiagnosed bipolar disorder and PTSD from a lifetime of sexual assault and domestic abuse. When she became a tenant at Community Access’ Gouverneur Court, things started to change: she fell in love with her current life partner, fellow resident Kenny, and overcame addiction with the support of the staff at Community Access. She now has full time work at the Social Security Administration and recently graduated with a master’s degree.</p> <p>These stories show firsthand that supportive housing works. It’s why the Mayor proposed a plan in 2015 to build an additional 15,000 supportive housing apartments over 15 years through the city’s new NYC 15/15 program. We applaud the administration for this plan, yet we also know the need is immediate. We need to do more to bring units online today.</p> <p>As Chairs of the City Council’s Land Use and General Welfare Committees, we’re working collaboratively with our fellow Council Members to help speed the creation of the Mayor’s promised 15,000 supportive apartments over the next several years so that all New Yorkers will have a place to call home.</p> <p>We need a bold vision to end homelessness. Supportive housing is the key.</p> <p>***<br /> Stephen Levin represents the 33rd City Council District, including parts of Brooklyn, and Rafael Salamanca, Jr. represents the 17th District, including parts of the South Bronx. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/StephenLevin33" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@StephenLevin33</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/Salamancajr80" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@Salamancajr80</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/salamanca-levin-2.jpg" alt="salamanca levin 2" /></p> <p>Council Members Levin &amp; Salamanca, the authors, foreground (photo: Jeff Reed)</p> <hr /> <p>New York City is facing a crisis. There are more than 60,000 homeless individuals living in the city shelter system daily, and thousands more in shelters for survivors of domestic violence, youth, and those living with HIV/AIDS. An additional estimated 4,000 New Yorkers sleep on the streets each night. And according to the <a href="http://www.coalitionforthehomeless.org/basic-facts-about-homelessness-new-york-city/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Coalition for the Homeless</a>, the number of homeless New Yorkers sleeping each night in municipal shelters is 83 percent higher than it was a decade ago.</p> <p>These numbers are staggering. We, as elected leaders have a responsibility to do better and fully invest in solutions that work.</p> <p>That is why, as moderators at this year’s New York State Supportive Housing Conference, we are proud to champion the city’s efforts to build more supportive housing -- a critical component of the City’s efforts to combat the homelessness crisis. We’re proud that the new city budget recently agreed upon by the Mayor and City Council, which we are members of, increased from 500 to 700 the supportive housing units that will become available in the next fiscal year. There is still much more to do.</p> <p>Supportive housing is permanent affordable housing paired with wrap-around services designed to help people maintain their homes for the long-term. All tenants have a lease, and are provided with individualized on-site care, including case management, job training, and mental health and substance abuse counseling. Supportive housing developments are run by non-profit organizations that typically provide both support services and management.</p> <p>Last year, the City Council General Welfare Committee held a hearing in The Schermerhorn, a supportive housing building that also contains affordable housing units for community members and artists, along with a theater for the public. It is a good example of how these developments create jobs and contribute to the growth and well-being of a neighborhood.</p> <p>Supportive housing’s track record has shown its effectiveness in ending homelessness, and &nbsp;improving neighborhoods, creating much-needed affordable housing and saving taxpayer dollars. Simply put, it is housing for those most in need. Residents have a place to call home in an environment that provides direct case management and access to mental health providers. We know all too well how vital mental health care is to a person’s wellbeing, and is that much more critical for individuals who are unstably housed and have often faced significant trauma. The integrated service model enables people to connect to the programs that are right for them, helping them to lead their best lives.</p> <p>Organizations like the Supportive Housing Network of New York, comprised of more than 200 nonprofit organizations, link the 50,000 units of supportive housing they’ve created with critical services and programs that give New Yorkers a jumpstart on advancing the lives they want to lead through a more holistic approach.</p> <p>Supportive housing has made a world of difference to New Yorkers:</p> <p>Like Robert, who struggled with mental illness and addiction most of his life, living in Madison Square Park for ten years. After a health emergency, Urban Pathways’ outreach team helped him move into a beautiful new apartment in his native Bronx. He’s an active participant in his building and in client advocacy groups, regularly visits with his mother and grandchildren, and is beloved by residents and staff alike.</p> <p>And like Shannon, who has dealt with undiagnosed bipolar disorder and PTSD from a lifetime of sexual assault and domestic abuse. When she became a tenant at Community Access’ Gouverneur Court, things started to change: she fell in love with her current life partner, fellow resident Kenny, and overcame addiction with the support of the staff at Community Access. She now has full time work at the Social Security Administration and recently graduated with a master’s degree.</p> <p>These stories show firsthand that supportive housing works. It’s why the Mayor proposed a plan in 2015 to build an additional 15,000 supportive housing apartments over 15 years through the city’s new NYC 15/15 program. We applaud the administration for this plan, yet we also know the need is immediate. We need to do more to bring units online today.</p> <p>As Chairs of the City Council’s Land Use and General Welfare Committees, we’re working collaboratively with our fellow Council Members to help speed the creation of the Mayor’s promised 15,000 supportive apartments over the next several years so that all New Yorkers will have a place to call home.</p> <p>We need a bold vision to end homelessness. Supportive housing is the key.</p> <p>***<br /> Stephen Levin represents the 33rd City Council District, including parts of Brooklyn, and Rafael Salamanca, Jr. represents the 17th District, including parts of the South Bronx. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/StephenLevin33" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@StephenLevin33</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/Salamancajr80" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@Salamancajr80</a>.</p> <p>

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City Council Allocates Discretionary Funding, with Significant Increase for the Speaker 2018-06-14T04:00:00+00:00 2018-06-14T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7739-city-council-allocates-discretionary-funding-with-significant-increase-for-the-speaker Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/council-meeting-cojo.jpg" alt="council meeting cojo" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Speaker Corey Johnson (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>The New York City Council increased the funding it distributes to local nonprofits and for Council members’ favored projects in their districts to $66.4 million for next fiscal year, which begins July 1, an increase of about $5 million, which largely went to initiatives sponsored by Speaker Corey Johnson. The money is part of the larger <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7731-de-blasio-and-city-council-agree-on-89-2-billion-budget-funding-key-council-priorities" target="_blank" rel="noopener">$89.2 billion budget deal reached between Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Council</a>, which was announced on Monday.</p> <p>The Council on Wednesday released details of its “Schedule C” discretionary funding, allocated annually to support nonprofits across the city and provide services where city agencies do not meet the need. Members items, as they are known, are meant to allow local elected officials to disburse funding to organizations that they know in their communities and help their constituents, especially the young, the old, and those living in or near poverty.</p> <p>Discretionary allocations in broad categories remained unchanged this year. The Council is spending $5.6 million on programs providing services for the elderly, through the Department for the Aging; initiatives under the Department of Youth and Community Development will receive $7.7 million; anti-poverty initiatives received a $2.8 million allocation.</p> <p>About $20.4 million will go to various local initiatives on what is called the “Speaker’s List,” sponsored by individual members, while local initiatives sponsored by the speaker himself will get $16.1 million in funding. A separate “Speaker’s Initiative” pot of funding saw the $5 million increase, to $11.9 million. Another $2 million was allocated to borough-wide needs. &nbsp;</p> <p>Johnson’s predecessor, former Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, reformed the discretionary funding process when she took the Council’s top office in 2014, adding equalizing measures to the formula by which funding is allocated to members while providing certain bumps to less well-off districts using objective measures. Speakers that came before her had used Schedule C to reward allies and to punish individual members when they spoke out or opposed them. Each member, including the speaker, received about $660,000 each to dole out to local, youth and aging initiatives this year. Additional allocations based on district poverty rates ranged from $25,000 to $100,000 depending on the members’ districts.</p> <p>The discretionary grants range anywhere from a few hundred dollars to hundreds of thousands. In a twist, the largest single grant of $500,000 was made by Johnson to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to fund a study on the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/23/nyregion/railroad-bridge-over-kew-gardens-queens-mta.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">decaying</a> Lefferts Boulevard bridge in Queens.</p> <p>Certain boroughs were clear winners. Of the $2 million for borough-wide initiatives, the Brooklyn delegation received the most, a total of $620,000. Queens came in second with $540,000. Manhattan received $380,000 while the Bronx was allocated $340,000, and Staten Island received $120,000.</p> <p>[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7731-de-blasio-and-city-council-agree-on-89-2-billion-budget-funding-key-council-priorities" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Mayor, City Council Reach Agreement on $89.2 Billion Budget, Funding Key Council Priorities</a>]</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/council-meeting-cojo.jpg" alt="council meeting cojo" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Speaker Corey Johnson (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>The New York City Council increased the funding it distributes to local nonprofits and for Council members’ favored projects in their districts to $66.4 million for next fiscal year, which begins July 1, an increase of about $5 million, which largely went to initiatives sponsored by Speaker Corey Johnson. The money is part of the larger <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7731-de-blasio-and-city-council-agree-on-89-2-billion-budget-funding-key-council-priorities" target="_blank" rel="noopener">$89.2 billion budget deal reached between Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Council</a>, which was announced on Monday.</p> <p>The Council on Wednesday released details of its “Schedule C” discretionary funding, allocated annually to support nonprofits across the city and provide services where city agencies do not meet the need. Members items, as they are known, are meant to allow local elected officials to disburse funding to organizations that they know in their communities and help their constituents, especially the young, the old, and those living in or near poverty.</p> <p>Discretionary allocations in broad categories remained unchanged this year. The Council is spending $5.6 million on programs providing services for the elderly, through the Department for the Aging; initiatives under the Department of Youth and Community Development will receive $7.7 million; anti-poverty initiatives received a $2.8 million allocation.</p> <p>About $20.4 million will go to various local initiatives on what is called the “Speaker’s List,” sponsored by individual members, while local initiatives sponsored by the speaker himself will get $16.1 million in funding. A separate “Speaker’s Initiative” pot of funding saw the $5 million increase, to $11.9 million. Another $2 million was allocated to borough-wide needs. &nbsp;</p> <p>Johnson’s predecessor, former Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, reformed the discretionary funding process when she took the Council’s top office in 2014, adding equalizing measures to the formula by which funding is allocated to members while providing certain bumps to less well-off districts using objective measures. Speakers that came before her had used Schedule C to reward allies and to punish individual members when they spoke out or opposed them. Each member, including the speaker, received about $660,000 each to dole out to local, youth and aging initiatives this year. Additional allocations based on district poverty rates ranged from $25,000 to $100,000 depending on the members’ districts.</p> <p>The discretionary grants range anywhere from a few hundred dollars to hundreds of thousands. In a twist, the largest single grant of $500,000 was made by Johnson to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to fund a study on the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/23/nyregion/railroad-bridge-over-kew-gardens-queens-mta.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">decaying</a> Lefferts Boulevard bridge in Queens.</p> <p>Certain boroughs were clear winners. Of the $2 million for borough-wide initiatives, the Brooklyn delegation received the most, a total of $620,000. Queens came in second with $540,000. Manhattan received $380,000 while the Bronx was allocated $340,000, and Staten Island received $120,000.</p> <p>[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7731-de-blasio-and-city-council-agree-on-89-2-billion-budget-funding-key-council-priorities" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Mayor, City Council Reach Agreement on $89.2 Billion Budget, Funding Key Council Priorities</a>]</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
De Blasio and City Council Agree on $89.2 Billion Budget, Funding Key Council Priorities 2018-06-11T04:00:00+00:00 2018-06-11T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7731-de-blasio-and-city-council-agree-on-89-2-billion-budget-funding-key-council-priorities Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/42026176154_6c5b9671ec_z.jpg" alt="de Blasio Corey Johnson budget City Hall" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>De Blasio &amp; Johnson shake on it (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson on Monday announced an agreement on an $89.15 billion budget for the 2019 fiscal year that includes key Council priorities that the mayor had been hesitant to fund for months.</p> <p>“This budget is profoundly responsible, it is balanced, it is progressive and it is early,” de Blasio said at the ceremonial budget handshake with Johnson and other Council members at City Hall on Monday evening, about three weeks before the July 1 deadline that is the start of next fiscal year.</p> <p>The latest spending plan is a slight uptick from the mayor’s $89.06 billion executive budget proposal released in April, and a total $480 million increase from the $88.67 billion preliminary proposal put forward by the administration in February. Overall, it reflects a $16.45 billion increase from the $72.7 billion budget that de Blasio inherited when he took office in 2014. Asked about that significant growth, de Blasio said on Monday, “It’s an investment model, it’s a strategic investment concept,” insisting that much of the city’s prosperity over the last few years stemmed from his administration’s responsible spending and fiscal management.</p> <p>The money has certainly been there to spend, even as the budget has grown so large, the city has put record sums in reserves, though watchdogs do warn of long-term fiscal impacts of the large growth in public sector headcount de Blasio has overseen.</p> <p>It was Johnson’s first budget as speaker and he notched a massive victory, convincing an initially reluctant de Blasio to provide $106 million to partially fund the ‘Fair Fares’ program that will provide half-priced MetroCards to New Yorkers that live below the federal poverty line. The Council members in attendance struck an especially celebratory tone.</p> <p>“I believe that Speaker Johnson said the words ‘Fair Fares’ to me an unfair number of times,” de Blasio mused of Johnson’s almost single-minded focus on the issue in the lead up to the budget deal. The speaker headed a concerted campaign for the program, using digital and social media and grassroots advocacy. All but three members of the City Council had expressed their support for it by this week; it was clearly the speaker’s top priority in negotiations with the mayor.</p> <p>De Blasio said Monday that the program will launch in January 2019 and run through the rest of the fiscal year, and will be implemented by the city rather than the MTA, in a similar fashion to the Human Resource Administration’s cash assistance and food stamp programs. Following the six-month rollout, the city will evaluate participation and cost to decide on future funding, Johnson later said as he insisted that both he and the mayor will continue to push for an additional millionaires tax approved in Albany to fully fund the program.</p> <p>The mayor also added $225 million in funding to reserves, conceding nearly half of the Council’s $500 million demand for more rainy day funds. About $125 million was added to the general reserve, bringing it to $1.25 billion each year, and $100 million to the Retiree Health Benefits Trust Fund, increasing it to $4.35 billion, while the capital stabilization reserve remained static at $250 million.</p> <p>De Blasio also touted other top items that had been outlined in earlier iterations of the budget, namely $125 million in increased fair school funding, added resources for the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), an expansion of 3-K for all, and funding for police body cameras.</p> <p>“This spending plan will strengthen our social safety net and do more for New Yorkers who are struggling to get by on less,” Johnson said as he thanked the mayor for “good faith” negotiations over the last few months.</p> <p>“We are taking a sharp-eyed, sober approach to the future,” he added, detailing a few of the initiatives funded in the budget, including $150 million in additional capital funding over three years to improve accessibility for the disabled at city schools and an expansion of of the summer youth employment program from 70,000 to 75,000 slots.</p> <p>Johnson also highlighted the hundreds of millions of dollars that the city previously committed to the MTA Subway Action Plan, as Johnson had wanted it to but de Blasio did not, after the state budget forced the city's hand. He also stressed additional investment in supportive housing, to accelerate the pace of units opening.</p> <p>The deal, according to a press release from the mayor's office, also increases and baselines funding for the Emergency Food Assistance Program "to $20 million annually" and adds $3.5 million "for additional litter basket pickup" to avoid trash can overflow on street corners.</p> <p>The final budget does not include a $400 property tax rebate for thousands of homeowners -- another key Council priority -- since the administration and Council announced late last month that they would convene a property tax commission to review the system and propose reforms. The commission is expected to begin its work with the July 1 start of the new fiscal year and will hold ten hearings to seek public input.</p> <p>The budget agreement announcement came hours after another, more tense news conference at City Hall where <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7730-city-agrees-to-federal-monitor-and-cash-infusion-for-nycha" target="_blank" rel="noopener">de Blasio addressed the city’s agreement, announced Monday morning, with federal prosecutors to accept a federal monitor for NYCHA</a>. The deal also requires the city to provide billions more in funding for the ailing housing authority over the several years, and that funding will be reflected in the capital budget when it passes the City Council later this month, de Blasio said.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/42026176154_6c5b9671ec_z.jpg" alt="de Blasio Corey Johnson budget City Hall" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>De Blasio &amp; Johnson shake on it (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson on Monday announced an agreement on an $89.15 billion budget for the 2019 fiscal year that includes key Council priorities that the mayor had been hesitant to fund for months.</p> <p>“This budget is profoundly responsible, it is balanced, it is progressive and it is early,” de Blasio said at the ceremonial budget handshake with Johnson and other Council members at City Hall on Monday evening, about three weeks before the July 1 deadline that is the start of next fiscal year.</p> <p>The latest spending plan is a slight uptick from the mayor’s $89.06 billion executive budget proposal released in April, and a total $480 million increase from the $88.67 billion preliminary proposal put forward by the administration in February. Overall, it reflects a $16.45 billion increase from the $72.7 billion budget that de Blasio inherited when he took office in 2014. Asked about that significant growth, de Blasio said on Monday, “It’s an investment model, it’s a strategic investment concept,” insisting that much of the city’s prosperity over the last few years stemmed from his administration’s responsible spending and fiscal management.</p> <p>The money has certainly been there to spend, even as the budget has grown so large, the city has put record sums in reserves, though watchdogs do warn of long-term fiscal impacts of the large growth in public sector headcount de Blasio has overseen.</p> <p>It was Johnson’s first budget as speaker and he notched a massive victory, convincing an initially reluctant de Blasio to provide $106 million to partially fund the ‘Fair Fares’ program that will provide half-priced MetroCards to New Yorkers that live below the federal poverty line. The Council members in attendance struck an especially celebratory tone.</p> <p>“I believe that Speaker Johnson said the words ‘Fair Fares’ to me an unfair number of times,” de Blasio mused of Johnson’s almost single-minded focus on the issue in the lead up to the budget deal. The speaker headed a concerted campaign for the program, using digital and social media and grassroots advocacy. All but three members of the City Council had expressed their support for it by this week; it was clearly the speaker’s top priority in negotiations with the mayor.</p> <p>De Blasio said Monday that the program will launch in January 2019 and run through the rest of the fiscal year, and will be implemented by the city rather than the MTA, in a similar fashion to the Human Resource Administration’s cash assistance and food stamp programs. Following the six-month rollout, the city will evaluate participation and cost to decide on future funding, Johnson later said as he insisted that both he and the mayor will continue to push for an additional millionaires tax approved in Albany to fully fund the program.</p> <p>The mayor also added $225 million in funding to reserves, conceding nearly half of the Council’s $500 million demand for more rainy day funds. About $125 million was added to the general reserve, bringing it to $1.25 billion each year, and $100 million to the Retiree Health Benefits Trust Fund, increasing it to $4.35 billion, while the capital stabilization reserve remained static at $250 million.</p> <p>De Blasio also touted other top items that had been outlined in earlier iterations of the budget, namely $125 million in increased fair school funding, added resources for the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), an expansion of 3-K for all, and funding for police body cameras.</p> <p>“This spending plan will strengthen our social safety net and do more for New Yorkers who are struggling to get by on less,” Johnson said as he thanked the mayor for “good faith” negotiations over the last few months.</p> <p>“We are taking a sharp-eyed, sober approach to the future,” he added, detailing a few of the initiatives funded in the budget, including $150 million in additional capital funding over three years to improve accessibility for the disabled at city schools and an expansion of of the summer youth employment program from 70,000 to 75,000 slots.</p> <p>Johnson also highlighted the hundreds of millions of dollars that the city previously committed to the MTA Subway Action Plan, as Johnson had wanted it to but de Blasio did not, after the state budget forced the city's hand. He also stressed additional investment in supportive housing, to accelerate the pace of units opening.</p> <p>The deal, according to a press release from the mayor's office, also increases and baselines funding for the Emergency Food Assistance Program "to $20 million annually" and adds $3.5 million "for additional litter basket pickup" to avoid trash can overflow on street corners.</p> <p>The final budget does not include a $400 property tax rebate for thousands of homeowners -- another key Council priority -- since the administration and Council announced late last month that they would convene a property tax commission to review the system and propose reforms. The commission is expected to begin its work with the July 1 start of the new fiscal year and will hold ten hearings to seek public input.</p> <p>The budget agreement announcement came hours after another, more tense news conference at City Hall where <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7730-city-agrees-to-federal-monitor-and-cash-infusion-for-nycha" target="_blank" rel="noopener">de Blasio addressed the city’s agreement, announced Monday morning, with federal prosecutors to accept a federal monitor for NYCHA</a>. The deal also requires the city to provide billions more in funding for the ailing housing authority over the several years, and that funding will be reflected in the capital budget when it passes the City Council later this month, de Blasio said.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
Three City Council Members Don't Support 'Fair Fares' 2018-06-07T04:00:00+00:00 2018-06-07T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7722-three-city-council-members-don-t-support-fair-fares Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/citycouncil-cojo.jpg" alt="citycouncil cojo" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Speaker Johnson on the subway (photo via City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>A budget proposal to provide half-priced MetroCards to low-income New Yorkers has the New York City Council’s full weight this year. Well, almost.</p> <p>Only three City Council Members -- Joe Borelli, Steven Matteo, and Ruben Diaz, Sr. -- in the 51-member body have so far declined to support Fair Fares, the proposal that would cost the city about $212 million to offer discounted fares to nearly 800,000 city residents living below the federal poverty line.</p> <p>City Council Speaker Corey Johnson has made an unprecedented push for the proposal to be funded in the next city budget, due by July 1, which will outline roughly $90 billion in spending. Johnson, his Council colleagues, and his aides have employed social media campaigns and on-the-ground outreach to convince Mayor Bill de Blasio to agree to the necessary funding. The mayor has shown nominal support for the idea but has insisted that it should be funded by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which is controlled by the state and effectively answers to Governor Andrew Cuomo, or through an added tax on high income earners.</p> <p>“The Fair Fares proposal is not a representation of the needs of my constituents, who continually face the longest and costliest commutes in the city,” said Council Member Matteo from Staten Island, one of three Republicans in the Council and the minority leader, in a statement. “It is certainly not a budget priority for me.”</p> <p>Matteo and fellow Staten Island Republican Council Member Joe Borelli, who is also unsupportive of Fair Fares, are among those behind a Council push -- supported by Johnson -- to convince de Blasio to fund <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7671-city-council-pushes-property-tax-rebate-as-de-blasio-continues-to-stall-on-broader-reform" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a $400 property tax rebate</a> to homeowners with household incomes under $150,000, another initiative the mayor has thus far spurned.</p> <p>Last month, the Council organized a digital Day of Action, followed the next week with a street-level effort at subway stations across the city, to build a crescendo around Fair Fares targeted largely at an audience of one: the mayor. Of the 51 members, 47 had signalled their support for the proposal. Since then, Council Member Chaim Deutsch from Brooklyn has also signed on. In a brief phone interview, he told Gotham Gazette, “I support it 100 percent.”</p> <p>Borelli was less enthused. “Where have all these ‘Fair Fares’ supporters been while my constituents pay $6.50 for a bus to Manhattan, or shell out $15 tolls to subsidize a subway system we don’t have access to?,” he said in a text message. “Do they not understand that the middle class will be on the line to pay for this subsidy?”</p> <p><a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2018/05/16/johnson-proposes-cutting-council-initiatives-in-search-for-fair-fares-cash-424197" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Politico New York reported</a> last month that Speaker Johnson was considering cutting certain Council initiatives from the budget to fund Fair Fares, which could mean that individual members may see some of their own priorities unfunded in the final budget if the mayor doesn’t concede to the Council’s demand. Johnson has declined to confirm the report, and <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2018/06/06/sources-council-de-blasio-close-to-budget-deal-452657" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a new report</a> by Politico indicated on Wednesday that the speaker appeared to be close to getting de Blasio to agree to some initial version of a Fair Fares program in an imminent budget deal.</p> <p>“I’m still undecided,” said Council Member Ruben Diaz Sr., a Democrat from the Bronx and the fourth of the four Council members who didn’t sign the Fair Fares letter, when reached by phone on Wednesday. “I’m inclined to support it but I’m looking at other things to see what happens.”</p> <p>When asked to elaborate on his concerns, Diaz Sr. refused. “I’m telling you as much as I can tell you,” he said.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7671-city-council-pushes-property-tax-rebate-as-de-blasio-continues-to-stall-on-broader-reform" target="_blank" rel="noopener">City Council Pushes Property Tax Rebate as De Blasio Stalls Broader Reform</a>]</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/citycouncil-cojo.jpg" alt="citycouncil cojo" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Speaker Johnson on the subway (photo via City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>A budget proposal to provide half-priced MetroCards to low-income New Yorkers has the New York City Council’s full weight this year. Well, almost.</p> <p>Only three City Council Members -- Joe Borelli, Steven Matteo, and Ruben Diaz, Sr. -- in the 51-member body have so far declined to support Fair Fares, the proposal that would cost the city about $212 million to offer discounted fares to nearly 800,000 city residents living below the federal poverty line.</p> <p>City Council Speaker Corey Johnson has made an unprecedented push for the proposal to be funded in the next city budget, due by July 1, which will outline roughly $90 billion in spending. Johnson, his Council colleagues, and his aides have employed social media campaigns and on-the-ground outreach to convince Mayor Bill de Blasio to agree to the necessary funding. The mayor has shown nominal support for the idea but has insisted that it should be funded by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which is controlled by the state and effectively answers to Governor Andrew Cuomo, or through an added tax on high income earners.</p> <p>“The Fair Fares proposal is not a representation of the needs of my constituents, who continually face the longest and costliest commutes in the city,” said Council Member Matteo from Staten Island, one of three Republicans in the Council and the minority leader, in a statement. “It is certainly not a budget priority for me.”</p> <p>Matteo and fellow Staten Island Republican Council Member Joe Borelli, who is also unsupportive of Fair Fares, are among those behind a Council push -- supported by Johnson -- to convince de Blasio to fund <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7671-city-council-pushes-property-tax-rebate-as-de-blasio-continues-to-stall-on-broader-reform" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a $400 property tax rebate</a> to homeowners with household incomes under $150,000, another initiative the mayor has thus far spurned.</p> <p>Last month, the Council organized a digital Day of Action, followed the next week with a street-level effort at subway stations across the city, to build a crescendo around Fair Fares targeted largely at an audience of one: the mayor. Of the 51 members, 47 had signalled their support for the proposal. Since then, Council Member Chaim Deutsch from Brooklyn has also signed on. In a brief phone interview, he told Gotham Gazette, “I support it 100 percent.”</p> <p>Borelli was less enthused. “Where have all these ‘Fair Fares’ supporters been while my constituents pay $6.50 for a bus to Manhattan, or shell out $15 tolls to subsidize a subway system we don’t have access to?,” he said in a text message. “Do they not understand that the middle class will be on the line to pay for this subsidy?”</p> <p><a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2018/05/16/johnson-proposes-cutting-council-initiatives-in-search-for-fair-fares-cash-424197" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Politico New York reported</a> last month that Speaker Johnson was considering cutting certain Council initiatives from the budget to fund Fair Fares, which could mean that individual members may see some of their own priorities unfunded in the final budget if the mayor doesn’t concede to the Council’s demand. Johnson has declined to confirm the report, and <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2018/06/06/sources-council-de-blasio-close-to-budget-deal-452657" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a new report</a> by Politico indicated on Wednesday that the speaker appeared to be close to getting de Blasio to agree to some initial version of a Fair Fares program in an imminent budget deal.</p> <p>“I’m still undecided,” said Council Member Ruben Diaz Sr., a Democrat from the Bronx and the fourth of the four Council members who didn’t sign the Fair Fares letter, when reached by phone on Wednesday. “I’m inclined to support it but I’m looking at other things to see what happens.”</p> <p>When asked to elaborate on his concerns, Diaz Sr. refused. “I’m telling you as much as I can tell you,” he said.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7671-city-council-pushes-property-tax-rebate-as-de-blasio-continues-to-stall-on-broader-reform" target="_blank" rel="noopener">City Council Pushes Property Tax Rebate as De Blasio Stalls Broader Reform</a>]</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
For 34,000 Children and Their Parents, A Summer of Uncertainty and More At Stake 2018-05-22T04:00:00+00:00 2018-05-22T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/7685-for-34-000-children-and-their-parents-a-summer-of-uncertainty-and-more-at-stake Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/mayorsoffice-young-leaders.jpg" alt="mayorsoffice young leaders" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>(photo via the Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>In the Fall of 2014, New York City took an important step forward with the rollout of universal after-school for all public middle school students. SONYC, or School’s Out NYC, provides 6th, 7th and 8th graders with a foundation for success by offering opportunities, beyond the traditional learning settings of a classroom, that allow them to explore their interests and abilities in sports and arts and youth leadership and more.</p> <p>Mayor de Blasio said in his announcement at the time that “Middle school is often a make-or-break time in an adolescent's life—and we're determined to use all tools at our disposal to expand learning opportunities for the future shapers of our city."</p> <p>In the first year of implementation, the SONYC after-school program offered a summer component, mirroring all after-school programs established during the Bloomberg administration. This was a positive step as research has proven summer camp programming is a critical component of child well-being and academic success. Among the tremendous benefits of summer programs, they help to close the achievement gap and aid with preventing “summer slide” learning losses. According to the National Summer Learning Association, summer learning loss accounts for two-thirds of the ninth-grade achievements gap in reading, and low-income youth lose two to three months of achievement each year.</p> <p>However, since the summer of 2015, the de Blasio administration has annually threatened to cut more than $20 million for summer camp programming from the students enrolled in the after-school programs of the mayor’s creation. This money, or a portion of it, usually gets restored after negotiations with the City Council; however, this back-and-forth “budget dance” process leaves parents and programs scrambling at the last minute and anxiety-ridden until budget adoption. And as the budget is adopted in late June, these restorations naturally result in a smaller and smaller number of program slots, as ramping up a program, hiring staff, engaging parents, and enrolling students all takes time. The beginning of the summer is not the time to make these crucial funding decisions.</p> <p>Once again, the de Blasio administration is planning to cut summer programs for over 34,000 middle-school students. Those most at risk of losing programming are the low-income working parents and families who are already facing many stressors in trying to make ends meet. Keeping their children safe during the summer months should not be one of them.</p> <p>The proposed cut impacts children and families in every corner of the city but is particularly drastic in communities with the greatest needs. The community district of Brownsville is facing the biggest cut of nearly 1,600 slots despite having the highest child poverty rate in the city. Other hard-hit communities include East Harlem (1,281 slots), East New York (1,219 slots), the Rockaways (1,137 slots), East Tremont (1,097), Central Harlem (1,087 slots), and the Lower East Side (1,030 slots). Each slot represents a child who will not have an enriching and stable location to learn and grow this summer.</p> <p>The budget dance for summer camp must come to an end! We must return to the original model that recognized that the families whose children engaged in after-school programming during the school year need summer camp opportunities that allow children to explore cultural and recreational interests and abilities and offer academic components that prevent summer learning loss.</p> <p>We agree with Mayor de Blasio when he says New York City must become the fairest big city in America. Threatening to cut summer camp from 34,000 children, with a profound negative impact on the poorest communities of this city, is not fair! Playing the budget dance with funding for summer camp programs is not fair! Fairness demands that the de Blasio administration restore and baseline this funding - 34,000 children and their families are counting on it!</p> <p>***<br /> Jennifer March is executive director of Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York and a leader of the Campaign for Children. On Twitter<a href="https://twitter.com/CCCNewYork" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> @CCCNewYork</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/mayorsoffice-young-leaders.jpg" alt="mayorsoffice young leaders" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>(photo via the Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>In the Fall of 2014, New York City took an important step forward with the rollout of universal after-school for all public middle school students. SONYC, or School’s Out NYC, provides 6th, 7th and 8th graders with a foundation for success by offering opportunities, beyond the traditional learning settings of a classroom, that allow them to explore their interests and abilities in sports and arts and youth leadership and more.</p> <p>Mayor de Blasio said in his announcement at the time that “Middle school is often a make-or-break time in an adolescent's life—and we're determined to use all tools at our disposal to expand learning opportunities for the future shapers of our city."</p> <p>In the first year of implementation, the SONYC after-school program offered a summer component, mirroring all after-school programs established during the Bloomberg administration. This was a positive step as research has proven summer camp programming is a critical component of child well-being and academic success. Among the tremendous benefits of summer programs, they help to close the achievement gap and aid with preventing “summer slide” learning losses. According to the National Summer Learning Association, summer learning loss accounts for two-thirds of the ninth-grade achievements gap in reading, and low-income youth lose two to three months of achievement each year.</p> <p>However, since the summer of 2015, the de Blasio administration has annually threatened to cut more than $20 million for summer camp programming from the students enrolled in the after-school programs of the mayor’s creation. This money, or a portion of it, usually gets restored after negotiations with the City Council; however, this back-and-forth “budget dance” process leaves parents and programs scrambling at the last minute and anxiety-ridden until budget adoption. And as the budget is adopted in late June, these restorations naturally result in a smaller and smaller number of program slots, as ramping up a program, hiring staff, engaging parents, and enrolling students all takes time. The beginning of the summer is not the time to make these crucial funding decisions.</p> <p>Once again, the de Blasio administration is planning to cut summer programs for over 34,000 middle-school students. Those most at risk of losing programming are the low-income working parents and families who are already facing many stressors in trying to make ends meet. Keeping their children safe during the summer months should not be one of them.</p> <p>The proposed cut impacts children and families in every corner of the city but is particularly drastic in communities with the greatest needs. The community district of Brownsville is facing the biggest cut of nearly 1,600 slots despite having the highest child poverty rate in the city. Other hard-hit communities include East Harlem (1,281 slots), East New York (1,219 slots), the Rockaways (1,137 slots), East Tremont (1,097), Central Harlem (1,087 slots), and the Lower East Side (1,030 slots). Each slot represents a child who will not have an enriching and stable location to learn and grow this summer.</p> <p>The budget dance for summer camp must come to an end! We must return to the original model that recognized that the families whose children engaged in after-school programming during the school year need summer camp opportunities that allow children to explore cultural and recreational interests and abilities and offer academic components that prevent summer learning loss.</p> <p>We agree with Mayor de Blasio when he says New York City must become the fairest big city in America. Threatening to cut summer camp from 34,000 children, with a profound negative impact on the poorest communities of this city, is not fair! Playing the budget dance with funding for summer camp programs is not fair! Fairness demands that the de Blasio administration restore and baseline this funding - 34,000 children and their families are counting on it!</p> <p>***<br /> Jennifer March is executive director of Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York and a leader of the Campaign for Children. On Twitter<a href="https://twitter.com/CCCNewYork" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> @CCCNewYork</a>.</p> <p>

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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