The de Blasio Budget: A Tale of Two Pies

Monday, November 18, 2013

Nearly 1,000 public workers and their unions massed at lunch time in front of City Hall. (Sam Lewis/WNYC)

Put on Mayor-Elect Billl de Blasio's to do list: negotiating new contracts for almost 300,000 workers, who say they're owed as much as $7 billion in back pay from a roughly $70 billion budget.

Picture an apple pie and a pumpkin pie. The apple pie represents expenditures, everything the city pays out for salaries and services. The pumpkin pie is everything the city takes in – from taxes, federal and state aid. 

Ester Fuchs, a political science professor at Columbia says de Blasio's difficult task will be to reconcile the two pies.

It's a task made more difficult by hopeful workers like Shereice Hunter, who not only expect a raise, but also retroactive pay. Hunter makes $35,000 as a school safety supervisor and hasn’t had a raise since contract negotiations between her union and Mayor Bloomberg stalled years ago. After falling behind on rent, she got evicted from her apartment earlier this month. Now she lives with her sister, and shares a bedroom with her 17-year old nephew. As she shows the bunk bed she now calls home, she sighs back tears.

"I've always lived on my own since the age of 18, and to have to live with someone is kind of a touchy thing," she said. "You work for the city, you have a good job, and you don’t even make enough to take care of yourself and your family."

But Charles Brecher of the business-backed Citizens Budget Commission says there’s no way to fund the retroactive raises, at least not in a big lump sum. "That money is not laying around," he said. "And it’s not clear where it would come from."

Fuchs still sees reason for optimism.

"This mayor has a clean slate," she said, noting that, other than the CUNY professors, no other union endorsed de Blasio during the primary. "So he doesn’t owe them his election. And he can go into this process with a standard of fairness. And also a standard that is reality based."


Andrea Bernstein


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Comments [8]

Ron from NYC

One of the serious issues is the use of consultants at incredibly high wages when compared to civil servants. I have been told, but have not verified, that DOITT's staff is approximately 2/3rds consultants!

Being a technical agency (DOITT), the problem is what do you do with civil servants whose skill sets are outdated, yet have lifetime job protection? As a manager, if I am given a large IT project and I see that none of my staff have the skills to perform the project, I need to turn to outside consultants to get the job done. Unfortunately, training is not an answer because of the learning curve involved, and to be honest, I have witnessed it first hand at my agency, the older IT staff are incapable of learning new technologies. They have been using antiquated technologies for so long, they no longer have the drive nor ability to learn new technology. Yet civil service policy prevents them from being replaced with more productive workers.

I did not vote for for de Blasio, but I fear he is in for a rude awakening.

Jan. 13 2014 11:52 AM
Jessica from tudor city

The uions, and I am a member, were cowards during Bloomberg's term, that was the time for deals or to strike!

Nov. 18 2013 08:20 PM

Doctors Council SEIu, NYSNA, Committee of Interns and Residents and 1100 SEIU endorsed DeBlasio before the mayoral primary.

Nov. 18 2013 03:11 PM
Adam Goldberg from Brooklyn

It doesn't matter whether the municipal unions or the City come to an agreement as the Taylor Law required binding arbitration.

Nov. 18 2013 11:40 AM
Tina from Brooklyn from Brooklyn

Shereice isn't the only city worker facing this kind of hardship. NYC needs to address this issue.

Nov. 18 2013 11:28 AM

Bloomberg's maniacal belief that a corporate takeover and giving tax breaks to real estate moguls has gutted the city and turned it into a hideous disgrace of corporate franchises and banks on every corner, creating a husk of a disappearing cultural center of the world in exchange for a playground for the rich from every corner of the globe.

DeBlasio must begin to turn it around with, as even one Republican here has said, a "soak-the-rich" tax, which should include a massive levy on all financial transactions. If Wall St isn't being prosecuted by the federal govt, then we should as a City and State, to regain our footing and return this place to the people and on behalf of the citizens of the world who have been living variously under harsh austerity measures, stagnant wages and unemployment and rising costs of living, tax them into oblivion.

Nov. 18 2013 11:00 AM
Liz P from NYC

What possible journalistic, editorial, aesthetic or other purpose is solved by the use of the pumpkin and apple pie metaphor? It is the worst sort of attempt to try (as far as I can tell) to be cutesy or hip or something; it certainly doesn't provide any clarity or substance to the piece. Come on, NPR- report news, please, without pointless and utterly mystifying reference to seasonal food stuffs.

The best I can hope is that the professor and journalist donated the abused pies to a food bank.

Nov. 18 2013 10:52 AM
Dave K from Manhattan

I feel deeply for Ms. Hunter.
Ok so 7 billion is not laying around, I suppose only an imbecile would imagine that it is ( save of course for in the pockets of the white collar miscreants in oil, tobacco and pharmaceuticals), but that is no reason not begin to rectify 'negotiation s' which Bloomberg could not even sustain. " talks broke down" The abdication inherent in that phrase is disgusting.

Nov. 18 2013 07:21 AM

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