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Queens Chronicle

Queens Board Asks Mayor To Restore Program Cuts

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Posted: Thursday, March 9, 2006 12:00 am

The Queens Borough Board submitted its budget requests to Mayor Michael Bloomberg this week, asking him to restore over $100 million he had cut out of his proposed budget.

The council voted to ask for the elimination of cuts and seeks to increase funding for services ranging from libraries to summer job programs at its meeting Monday night.

Overall, the board’s proposal calls for a $154 million increase in the budget, while suggesting $340 million in possible cost savings in the proposed $52.2 billion budget.

The board’s recommendations were drawn from a hearing held Feb. 9. Representatives from 197 community boards, agencies and civic groups testified.

Proposed cuts the board objected to include $12.6 million from the Queens Library, $34 million from the Youth and Community Development Department and $21 million from CUNY.

Specific program cuts the board objected to include $11.3 million cut from CUNY’s Vallone Scholarship Program, a program that benefited 2,200 students in Queens in 2005, and the Youth and Community Development Department’s summer job program, which provides 38,500 summer jobs for teens throughout the city.

Cuts to the Department for the Aging budget include a $1.5 million savings from consolidating referrals for senior services currently offered through senior centers and different agencies to 311. However, such a move would confuse seniors and decrease their access to services, Borough President Helen Marshall said. “311 can hardly answer a question about getting your street cleaned.”

The board also requested that the Department of Buildings be given enough money to hire 35 additional employees for Queens. The workers are needed because Queens is the source of 35.4 percent of the complaints sent to the department and 23.3 percent of its permit applications.

For the Police Department, the board requested a dedicated precinct for Flushing Meadows Corona Park, the division of the 105th Precinct into two, and a dedicated anti-graffiti unit for the borough.

The board’s plan also listed possible alternative cost savings. These include $197 million from streamlining the city’s purchasing system, $47 million in energy conservation and $12 million from eliminating Madison Square Garden’s tax exemption. Other suggestions include expanding bottle deposits to cover non-carbonated drinks and eliminating jury duty for teachers to save on the cost of substitutes.

The report also compiled the capital improvement requests from Queens-based organizations, including $13.5 million for improvements to the New York Hall of Science, $12.2 million for LaGuardia Community College, $6.8 million for the Queens Botanical Garden and $5.2 million for the Queens Theatre in the Park.

The Queens Farm Museum asked for $12.2 million, including $2.2 million to buy the former Klein Farm in Fresh Meadows.

The Queens Library requested a total of $74.5 million for new buildings for the Far Rockaway, Rego Park and Queens West branches and to expand and renovate seven additional branches.

The capital requests did bring a comment from Flushing City Council Member John Liu, who said that organizations need to consider their requests more carefully. “At some point we have to hold them accountable.”

The requests, along with the requests of the other borough boards, will now go to the mayor’s office. In the meantime, the City Council started its own budget hearings last week.

Jamaica Councilman Leroy Comrie, a member of the Finance Committee, said there was hope this year’s budget process would be smoother and less confrontational. “We have a real opportunity to change the whole script.”

Welcome to the discussion.