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Paterson's Bitter Pill

by David King, Jan 30, 2009
 

"All localities are being asked to take a bitter pill," Mayor Michael Bloomberg told a joint budget meeting of the state legislature on Jan. 22, "but I don't think it's fair New York City should be asked to swallow an entire bottle."

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While Bloomberg's statement might seem dramatic, Gov. David Paterson's proposed budget cuts do affect New York City more than other localities, according to some calculations. State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli released a report earlier this year that outlined exactly how New York City will suffer.

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"If enacted as proposed," it read, "the proposals could hinder the city's efforts to balance its budget for next year.

Education

Far and away the biggest cut will come in education aid to the city. DiNapoli's report states that figures the reduction at $669 million, "compared with the amount anticipated by the city in its financial plan." The executive budget proposal reduces school aid to the city by $277 million, but the city had assumed it would receive "an increase consistent with the resolution of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit" on school funding, the report said. The mayor figures an even deeper education cut. His budget released Friday saw a $770 million reduction in state aid. (See related story.)

Education cuts are certainly a sticking point for Bloomberg, who had already made some cuts to the Department of Education budget before Paterson's budget came down the pike.

What exactly would $669 million in cuts mean to New York City schools? City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein told a joint legislative budget meeting on Jan. 28 that it could mean layoffs of up to 15,000 school-based staff including teachers. Payments to individual city schools will be delayed.

General Aid

The city also faces a $656 million cut in state general purpose aid. All Aid and Incentive for Municipalities funding will be cut for New York City. New York is the only city that faces such a cut.

Bloomberg told legislators that if these cuts are not reduced, he will likely have to lay off other city workers in addition to those at the education department and perhaps increase taxes.

Not Just the Mayor's Budget

Bloomberg isn't the only one in New York City who will have a hard time managing under Paterson's proposed allocations. Paterson has called for cutting all state money for zoos, botanical gardens and aquariums for the fiscal year that starts in April. He cut funding for these institutions by 55 percent late last year. "A 100 percent cut is essentially a way of forcing zoos to lay off people, reduce their living collections or close," Assemblymen Steve Englebright told the New York Times.

Arts organizations are expecting major cuts, too, as the governor's 2009-2010 budget proposal includes a $7 million reduction for the New York State Council on the Arts. The governor also proposes not handing out council funding for the last quarter of 2009.


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