The de Blasio Budget: A Tale of Two Pies

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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."