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Queens Chronicle

Fighting for a bigger piece of the city’s budget pie

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Posted: Thursday, June 17, 2010 12:00 am

Borough President Helen Marshall is fighting to make sure Queens gets its fair share when it comes to the city’s budget, something she says isn’t happening.

“The numbers cried out,” Dan Andrews, a spokesman for Marshall said Tuesday. “She felt that a major push had to be made to make sure that we all have an equal footing. It’s not about pitting borough against borough. It’s about fairness and equality.”

With 2.2 million residents Queens, is the second most heavily populated borough behind Brooklyn, which has 2.5 million. The Bronx has 1.3 million residents and Staten Island has 443,728. But despite these numbers, the borough gets dismal support when it comes to funding for libraries, youth programs, arts and the Borough President’s Office.

Last year Marshall’s office received the least support with $2.12 per capita compared to the overall citywide average of nearly $3. Brooklyn received $2.22 followed by Manhattan with $2.88, the Bronx with $4.09 and Staten Island with $8.73.

The proposed FY 2011 budget would slash another $1 million from the BP’s office and would force it to lay off 20 percent of its staff.

In the area of arts, Queens ranks dead last when it comes to financial support from the city. It received $1.76 per capita for its eight cultural institutions, which is approximately $490,700 per facility. The overall citywide average is $6.27 per capita.

Marshall has compiled the information into a number of graphs and charts that she has brought to the attention of City Council Speaker Christine Quinn along with the council’s Queens delegation.

“The borough president has made it very much evident in a dramatic and visual way that Queens is being shortchanged,” Andrews said. “Hopefully, some of the funding will be restored.”

The city’s proposed budget would slash approximately $28 million in funding from the Queens Public Library system and cut the average service hours per week in half — from 40 to 20.

Queens libraries get $77,000 less per branch than those in Brooklyn and receive the least amount of support for each item loaned and per person visit than any other borough.

If Queens received the same amount per visit as the New York Public Library, the borough would get $25 million more in support and if it received the same amount per visit as Brooklyn, it would get $12.6 million more in funds.

The city’s Department of Youth and Community Development is slated to close 33 programs, 17 of which — more than half — are in Queens.

The funding allocation the borough receives will continue to be adversely affected if residents are not counted in the 2010 Census. It is used to determine each state’s representation in Congress as well as how much federal aid is allotted to local and state programs.

As of mid April, 59 percent of residents had mailed back their Census form up from 56 percent in 2000, but still a poor response when compared to the state and national numbers. For every person that is not counted, the state loses $30,000 annually.

“While we are happy that the percentage rate is up, it’s certainly not the rate we want to see,” Andrews said. “The borough president tries to talk up the Census everywhere she goes.”

The state Census average went from 66 percent in 2000 to 67 in 2010 while the national average has remained at 72 percent, respectively. The top five states with the best response rates so far have been: Wisconsin with 81 percent, followed by Minnesota with 80 percent, Iowa and Indiana with 78 percent and Michigan with 77 percent.

“If we don’t get counted, and the borough president feels we are being dramatically undercounted, it hurts us greatly,” Andrews said.

Welcome to the discussion.