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Local News January 31, 2013  RSS feed

DOE FUNDING TO TAKE FISCAL HIT

Bloomberg Unveils FY2014 Budget
by Sam Goldman

The city’s Fiscal Year 2014 preliminary budget, unveiled by Mayor Michael Bloomberg at a Tuesday, Jan. 29 press conference, attempts to balance the budget without raising taxes—but the city’s inability to install a teacher evaluation system will deeply affect city schools.

Bloomberg’s press conference began with some good news: private employment in the city is increasing at rates above that of the nation economy. Tourism is booming and office rents are increasing.

“We’ve done an awful lot of things and we have some momentum,” he stated.

As a result of the booming economy, the city expects a small increase in tax revenue. However, the city also projects fewer revenues from the sale of taxi medallions, decreasing estimates from $790 million to $600 million.

In addition, the failure of the city and the United Federation of Teachers to come to an agreement on teacher evaluations means a loss of $250 million, which the mayor stated will lead to the loss of teaching positions and afterschool programs unless a deal can be reached.

He later noted that if the funding is not saved for this year, it could also be lost in subsequent years.

According to Bloomberg, the reduction in funding means that the city will look to decrease the amount of employed teachers by 1,800 via attrition. He claimed that school aides and substitutes would work fewer hours, and 700,000 hours of afterschool would be lost citywide.

Hurricane Sandy’s impact will also be felt in the city’s budget, which includes an estimated $4.5 billion in storm-related costs. However, Bloomberg noted that the federal government will cover those costs.

Bloomberg noted that the city has saved $6.3 billion in costs from the “Programs to Eliminate the Gap” initiatives, which asks city agencies to evaluate areas where money can be saved.

However, the decrease is “virtually the same” as the increase in city pension costs.

In addition, the city is picking up 61 percent of the costs of education, an increase of $8 billion per year from previous years. Bloomberg noted that the state’s share of the education funding continues to diminish.

All in all, the city will spend $50.9 billion in city tax dollars. Of that, $19.7 billion will be spent on education ($7 billion on school construction, $12.2 billion on environmental projects, $7 billion on improvements to bridges and highways, and $1.9 billion on “adminstration of justice.”

Reaction to the budget focused on the teacher evaluation issue.

“The Council has serious concerns about the negative consequences reflected as a result of the absence of a deal on teacher evaluations. A further failure to strike a deal would be potentially devastating to our city’s students.,” said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. “As I’ve said before, it is imperative that all relevant parties get back into the room and reach a deal as soon as possible so that the city is not subjected to an even greater loss in vital funding that our children’s educations and futures depend on. “

“This budget illustrates the Mayor’s continuous refusal to negotiate contracts with our city’s work- force, which he is leaving for the next administration,” added Comptroller John Liu. “His reliance on one-shots and a ‘my way or the highway’ negotiation strategy has led us here, and, sadly, our kids will pay the price.”

Quinn and Council Member Dofamily minic Recchia, who chairs the city’s Finance Committee, also claimed that the budget could result in the closure of 20 city firehouses.

“We should have learned from our experience with Sandy that we have no slack capacity in our emergency response capability,” said Recchia.