In Budget Address, Bloomberg Says Cuts Loom for Teachers, Services
Thursday, February 17, 2011
Mayor Bloomberg is looking to close nearly half of all senior centers, reduce the teacher workforce by more than 6,000, close 20 firehouses and eliminate more than 16,000 child care seats.
The cutbacks come amid news that city tax revenues came in about $2 billion higher than expected. But the mayor said that's not enough to make up for the cutbacks the city is absorbing from Albany and Washington.
There's $600 million in support from Albany the mayor is still hoping to get in education aid and pension reforms. If not, he said there would be additional cuts to city agencies and, possibly, more layoffs.
Specifically, Bloomberg is seeking $200 million in education aid from Albany, which he said "will reaffirm the state's commitment to the principles of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity," referring to the landmark lawsuit that directed more money to city public schools.
The mayor is sticking with the cutbacks he announced in November: cutting teaching positions through layoffs or attrition, closing senior centers and reducing funding for youth jobs.
More than 4,100 of the teaching positions would be lost through layoffs, while the rest would be reduced through attrition.
The head of the teachers union, Michael Mulgrew, said the mayor's insistence on layoffs becomes "more and more bizarre." He said the city has lost 5,000 teachers to attrition in the last two years, and class sizes are "skyrocketing."
In an unusually early concession, Bloomberg said he would seek only a 10 percent across the board cut in capital projects, down from his initial 20 percent. He credited City Council Speaker Christine Quinn — who opposed the sweeping cuts — with the instigating the change.
The increased funding capital projects will spur job development, but the mayor said that should not be the main reason for making such an investment.
"City government's job is not to create jobs for every construction worker," he said. "Nobody feels more strongly about building things than I do, but there's a limit as to how much we can build."
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly told reporters his department will make the necessary adjustments in light of the 350 civilian positions slated to be cut from his department.
Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano was less optimistic about his ability to adjust to the closure of 20 firehouses.
"You don't have to assume. Response times will go up if we close 20 fire companies and our operations will be severely impacted" he told reporters at City Hall.
When asked if that meant lives would be in danger, Cassano "our operations will be impacted and our response times will go up. We will do the best job possible, given the resources."
Reporting by Beth Fertig