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Queens Chronicle

Council members react to budget plan

Queens politicians out of step with Bloomberg in ‘budget dance’

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Posted: Thursday, February 14, 2013 10:30 am

Political leaders across the borough are lining up against Mayor Bloomberg’s latest — and final — budget proposal, signaling the beginning of the annual “budget dance” between the City Hall and the City Council.

Legislators are protesting Bloomberg’s plan to cut funding for fire companies and the city’s Department of Education in his Fiscal Year 2014 budget, which he unveiled on Jan. 29.

To put it bluntly: It cuts too deep.

“It’s very distressing to hear that the mayor plans to cut an already bare-bone budget,” said Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights). “The mayor’s proposed budget is one that the city can’t afford.”

According to Bloomberg’s proposal, the city would allocate a $70.1 billion budget for the next fiscal year that would put an end to a $1.1 billion deficit without having to increase taxes or impose lay-offs in the public sector.

The proposal would also require all new nonuniform employees to work until age 65 to retire and receive a pension.

Over the last few years, members of the Council have teamed up with education and fire department advocates to oppose Bloomberg’s annual budget cuts to both services.

This year, many of the same community leaders who have been vocal opponents of Bloomberg’s fiscal plans are trying to block passage of slashes to fire companies and education budgets that the mayor is pushing to pass before he leaves office.

Bloomberg is proposing a 4.3 percent decrease in educational funding, which would likely result in 700,000 hours of after-school programs being cut and approximately 1,800 teaching positions being slashed from the DOE.

According to Dromm, Bloomberg’s plan would significantly increase the size of classrooms within his district and would decrease the quality of education in schools.

“Class size is at one of the highest rates it has ever been,” said Dromm, who used to be a school teacher. “I know the effect of larger class size; it means teachers won’t be able to individualize their plans and it will harm education.”

Bloomberg also proposed the elimination of 20 fire companies throughout the city in an effort to alleviate costs — a plan he has unsuccessfully attempted for several years.

Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) said she is very concerned with Bloomberg’s plan to close fire companies and thinks it will “harm the public safety of the district and the City as a whole.”

“If the mayor had his way the last three years, there would have been fewer fire companies and firefighters ready to respond to Hurricane Sandy,” Crowley said.

“The Fire Department is our first line of defense in any emergency, and my colleagues in government and I have made it clear that we will not tolerate crippling cuts that will increase response time and put the City’s safety at risk.”

Although Bloomberg does not plan on cutting the NYPD’s budget, many political leaders are concerned that funds currently allocated to the Police Department and the proposed funds outlined in the mayor’s budget plan for the next fiscal year aren’t enough to keep the city safe.

City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria), a staunch supporter of the NYPD and anti-crime funding, believes that Bloomberg’s budget proposal does not do enough to improve police funding, as some forms are crime are rising.

“While the NYPD is not being cut any further, that is not nearly enough,” Vallone said. “We have allowed our police force to attrit, and the recent spikes in crime show that we need to add more cops — not keep the status quo.”

Vallone, who serves as Chairman of the City Council’s Public Safety Committee, has advocated for an expansion of the Police Department’s budget throughout his tenure and has pushed for stronger security measures throughout his district.

Bloomberg will present his proposal to lawmakers before his term ends later this year.

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