New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio proposed an $84.7 billion preliminary budget for the next fiscal year. It’s the first step in a six-month process that must reach its final conclusion by June 30 with a balanced budget, just as de Blasio’s re-election campaign hits full swing.
The proposal includes $1 billion in new spending and has ticked up nearly 15 percent since de Blasio’s first budget in 2014.
While the city continues to benefit from strong financial conditions both nationally and locally, there are serious road bumps on the horizon that are not accounted for in de Blasio’s current proposal. Specifically, the mayor did not budget for any fallout from the new Trump administration.
“We have such a moving target,”de Blasio said during his budget presentation at City Hall on Tuesday afternoon. “[Trump], himself, has changed his mind about a bunch of stuff. You have a very closely split Congress, you have a split Republican party in the House, all sort of things. We can’t project with all those moving parts.”
The mayor will present his Executive Budget in the spring, and he said some of the additional impact from the Trump administration may be reflected in that version.
Also absent from the mayor’s preliminary budget presentation were any details on how the city plans to change its approach to homelessness or children’s services — two agencies that have become potential political liabilities for the administration.
The population in the city’s homeless shelter has broken 60,000, while the top job at the Administration of Children’s Services remains vacant following the departure of Gladys Carrion in December.
In terms of new spending, de Blasio’s preliminary budget emphasized public safety, infrastructure, and schools.
For the NYPD, he’s proposing a $275 million dollar investment to upgrade the firearm training facility on Rodman's Neck, more than $10 million dollars for bullet resistant window inserts, and $4.5 million to beef up the city's ability to fight gun violence.
These proposed investments come at a time when the city's crime rates are at record lows. But the mayor and NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill have pledged to bring those numbers down even further as the department continues to expand its community policing initiative.
On the education front, the city proposes $14.3 million to ensure students are reading at grade level by third grade. That means extending the school year for some second graders. The budget also allocates money to address overcrowding in the classroom. The city is proposing $495 million for 38,487 new classroom seats.
And on the infrastructure front, the mayor is proposing $147 million for road repaving, $162 million for flood mitigation in Southeast Queens and $571 million to repair bridges across the city.
These preliminary budget includes no across-the-board cuts or layoffs. But the mayor pointed to the Citywide Savings Program, which has achieved $1.1 billion in savings, and has a goal of $500 million more by the executive budget.
But budget watchers say those savings measures do not go far enough.
“Approximately 18 percent of the Citywide Savings [Program] is efficiency measures,” said Maria Doulis of the Citizens Budget Commission. “The upcoming deliberations with the City Council should focus on how to better manage agencies with significant expenditure growth.”
Despite the new NYPD investments, the sharpest response came from the head of the union representing rank-and-file police officers.
“The mayor likes to talk about the ‘pride’ that police officers take in their work, as if we should be able to live on that pride alone,” said Patrick Lynch, head of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, who is embroiled in ongoing contract negotiations with the city over pay raises for his members.
“New York City police officers are not falling for the Mayor’s smoke-and-mirrors ‘support’ for policing and public safety,” said Lynch, “and our fellow New Yorkers shouldn’t fall for it, either.”