"Legacy Costs" Are Eating Up A Quarter of New York City's Budget

In late January, Mayor Bloomberg released plans for his twelfth and final budget. In it, we see an attempt on behalf of the Mayor to leave the City in a fiscally solvent manner when he leaves next year, including a culmination of spending preferences (higher city agency budgets) and an unfortunate reality of cutback measures (layoffs, attrition, etc.). We're left with a budget totaling about $70.1 billion to close a $1.1 billion deficit shortfall.

On a larger scale, City Council is exactly like most ordinary Americans (read: us). New York City's budget racks up bills that eventually have to be paid off one way or another, all of which are promises made in the past by politicians to give this amount money to so and so. Following this trend, the IOUs gradually take up a larger portion of the budget. And this time around, it looks like these "legacy costs" will suck up nearly 25 percent of all of our government's funds in the next two years.

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A Look Inside Mayor Bloomberg's Last Budget

Before he leaves, he'll have to go out with a bang.

Yesterday, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg released his final preliminary budget plan for 2014, worth $70.1 billion -- a proposal that will close a $1.1 billion deficit facing the City. In it, we see remnants of this past year's controversies as well as set foundations for the future, all of which will be placed on the mayoral successor's 'To-Do List.'

Naturally, a majority of the $70.1 billion ($50.7 billion, to be exact) will go to the Big Spenders; that includes the cops, firefighters, teachers, pensioners, and healthcare recipients. However, a ton of money doesn't mean everything is alright for these guys: Mr. Bloomberg's budget cuts 700 teachers through attrition -- an additional 1,800 will come in September -- and threatens to close 20 fire companies.

This move harkens back to the reductions demanded by the Mayor last September; instead of tax increases and municipal worker layoffs, the executive agencies are being asked to trim down bureaucracy. So, of course, it can be guaranteed that City Council will not be so happy when this budget reaches their chamber.

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With Budget Cuts in Mind, Bloomberg Hands Out Raises to a Smaller Staff

Yesterday, we reported on the $2 billion worth in cuts that would skewer the budget in the next two full fiscal years. The main targets included the police, sanitation, corrections, education, and fire departments of New York City; overall, the mayor told the departments that they would have cut their overheard by 5.4 percent this year and 8 percent the following year. However, according to a Daily News report, it seems as if the Hozziner's staff in City Hall were not only immune from the chopping block but also actually received the spoils.

In the article, it was discovered that 10 of the mayor's employees received a salary bump of 20 percent or so over the summer. The news, after the announced budget memo, comes off as bad PR for a mayor that is telling all of City government to tighten its belts a little more than a bit.

However, the mayor's office has defended the raises as a reaction to staff cuts; in the past year, 17 workers have been removed from the total staff of 484. In other words, fewer staff members equals more work for employees -- the argument goes that the workers deserve higher pay for the new responsibilities. Overall, the budget for the office's salary has dropped off by $1.4 million.
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Mayor Bloomberg to NYC: Cut $2 Billion in 18 Months

Year Four of the Great Recession has taken its toll on budgets across the country: it's hard to not come across some sort of public service being slashed in the news almost every day. The reactionary politics of cut-and-save economics has hit New York hard since Downtown self-imploded in 2008 as Bloomberg's City Hall rushes to keep the City's budget somewhat intact by eliminating millions from education, healthcare, public housing and the rest of the starving bunch. Consequentially, the City's 10% unemployment rate is a testament to the fact that times are tough for millions of New Yorkers.

This notion continued yesterday when the Hozziner announced he expects to see nearly $2 billion cut from his final budget the next fiscal year. That amount comes out to about 3% of the total budget as a whole, meaning that these cuts are going to be deep and their impact on New Yorkers' lives even deeper. And the targets of this setback ring out this message even louder: in a rare occasion, the NYPD will be on the chopping block.

In accordance with the City Hall budget memo, here's what we should expect to see with a projected deficit of $2.5 billion in the next 18 months:
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Bloomberg's Budget Cuts Brooklyn's After-School Programs in Half

As of now, the Out of School Time program reaches 154 schools in Brooklyn. According to its website, it offers "a mix of academic, recreational and cultural activities for young people (grades K-12) after school" and is free of charge. It's also a relief to parents who work longer hours and rely on the program to watch over their children into the evening.

But, according to a new report out by The Daily News, it looks like almost 10,000 kids in Brooklyn who participate in the program are out of luck this fall.

The OST program houses 52,567 students every weekday city-wide. This number will be halved once the budget cuts from Bloomberg's administration are installed. Here's the data: this year, the budget was $91.5 million; next time school is in session, the funds will have dropped to $73.3 million. Instead of 154 programs, Brooklyn will be left with 77 overloaded OST's, pushing 10,000 kids out of the program. And none of the parents involved are too happy about it.

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Mayor Releases New Budget With Childcare Cuts, Gets Very Annoyed at Reporters

Sam Levin
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, responding to the mayor's budget proposal this afternoon.
Mayor Mike Bloomberg released his $68.7 billion executive budget proposal today and patted himself on the back for leading the city in a speedy recovery that's better than the rest of the country. The new budget for 2013 has no tax increases and relies on $6.2 billion in savings generated through deficit closing actions his city agencies have taken since 2007, the mayor reported today at City Hall.

He began his presentation by telling reporters that the city's job growth has improved faster than the rest of the country, thanks to the diverse economy he has supported and the many successful industries that are attracting folks to New York.

Of note, the mayor's budget increases city funding for education from $13.3 billion in 2012 to $13.6 billion in 2013, which will up the total number of teachers in the school system and maintain overall funding levels -- a part of the budget that the City Council and its speaker are applauding.

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Advocates Criticize Mayor's Cuts to After-School, Child Care

Sam Levin
City Councilwoman Diana Reyna at City Hall earlier this year. Today, she expressed concerns about child care cuts.
It's the budget dance!

It's that wonderful time of the year when advocacy groups take turns on the steps of City Hall protesting the budget cuts in their areas of interest. Last week, we reported on some advocates angry with the city's proposed cuts to HIV/AIDS services in the mayor's budget unveiled last month. Those guys went all out. Today, we've got for you another campaign of upset folks -- this time targeting potential losses to the city's after-school and child care programs.

Advocates from this newly-formed coalition called Campaign for Children say that this is more than just the typical dance, arguing that this time the proposed cuts threaten to significantly hurt early childhood education in the city.

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Historic Jazz Site in Harlem Rehabilitated, Houses Formerly Homeless New Yorkers

Cecil Hotel, a supportive housing project in Harlem.
At a time when social services are facing sometimes difficult cuts, one organization is celebrating the funding it received from the city to rehabilitate a housing project in Harlem that provides homes and services to the chronically homeless.

Housing and Services Inc., or HSI, -- an organization that develops and manages affordable housing for New Yorkers with special needs -- announced this week that it has completed construction on its rehabilitation project for supportive housing at the Cecil Hotel in Harlem and the Narragansett Hotel on the Upper West Side. The projects were awarded $16.4 million from the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development, HSI said.

The Cecil Hotel -- which in the 1990s was one of the city's first supportive housing projects of its kind according to HSI -- is located at 118th Street and St. Nicholas Ave. in a five-story building that once housed Minton's Playhouse, a legendary jazz club famous for its "bebop" music (The site is on the New York State Register of Historic Places).

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With OWS Support, Advocates Plan Rally to Protest Post Office Closures

In the age of who-uses-paper-for-anything-ever-anymore, there's one casualty in New York City that has activists from across the five boroughs up in arms: the post offices.

This month, a group of advocates are rallying together to bring attention to the United States Postal Service's plan to potentially shut down post offices throughout the city this year. The growing protest, organized through a newly-formed group called Community Labor United for Postal Jobs and Services, is targeting the Postal Service for planning closures that organizers say will disproportionately impact working class and low-income families in communities of color in the city. USPS, though, says that it is trying to tighten its belt in the face of dire financial challenges across the country and that it is choosing closures based on careful studies and specific criteria.

And last night, the effort got fresh support from Zuccotti Park -- the Occupy Wall Street General Assembly and the OWS labor committee endorsed a plan to demonstrate this month at post offices throughout the city.

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Mayor's Budget: No Tax Increases and No Layoffs of Teachers, Police Officers, or Firefighters

Sam Levin
Elected officials and nonprofit groups rallied this morning before the mayor announced his budget.
Announcing the city's annual budget today, Mayor Mike Bloomberg said he would not be increasing taxes and he would not be laying off teachers, police officers, or firefighters. He said it multiple times. Runnin' Scared, watching a live feed of his announcement, counted at least three times. Can you hear him, folks? Just in case you missed it -- no new taxes and no layoffs for uniformed workers.

He went over a lot of other stuff, too.

The preliminary 2013 budget is a $68.7 billion plan with a city-funded portion of $50.7 million.

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