• February 17, 2020
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Queens Chronicle

Mayor touts $95.3B budget for 2020-21

Would represent nearly 3 percent increase with state funding uncertain

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Posted: Thursday, January 23, 2020 10:30 am | Updated: 2:08 pm, Thu Jan 30, 2020.

Mayor de Blasio last Thursday released a $95.3 billion executive budget proposal for the fiscal year beginning on July 1.

The figure would represent a $2.5 billion increase over the budget approved by the mayor and City Council last June, or nearly 3 percent.

The increase comes even as de Blasio, in an accompanying statement, warned that the state, facing massive deficits, may be looking to pass off costs to municipalities and counties, particularly for Medicaid [see separate story in most editions and online at qchron.com].

“In planning for the next year, we are facing an unprecedented $6 billion State budget gap,” de Blasio said in a press release issued by his office. “Medicaid cuts could reverse years of progress at NYC Health + Hospitals and impact health care for the most vulnerable. We will work with our partners in Albany to continue to find savings while fighting to protect health care for all New Yorkers.”

The Mayor’s Office said increases since June 2019 are largely due to:

• $1.6 billion from labor settlements with city unions;

• $270 million for debt service on city borrowing;

• $256 million for education mandates, including “special education”; and “charter school costs”; and

• $175 million for criminal justice mandates from the state, including measures to implement and deal with bail and discovery reforms that went into effect on Jan. 1.

The summary provided by the mayor said the figures were offset by $1.2 billion in departmental savings and an estimated $1.9 billion reduction in projected healthcare costs.

De Blasio is calling for the city to add $1.25 billion a year for four years to its reserve funds, and will have nearly $4.7 billion in its retiree health benefits fund.

The document also projects out-year deficits at $2.4 billion for fiscal year 2022, which begins July 1 next year; $2.68 billion for FY 2023; and just under $2.66 billion for FY 2024.

Release of the mayor’s executive budget formally kicks off the annual negotiations with the City Council.

In a joint statement issued Thursday afternoon, Speaker Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan), Finance Committee Chairman Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) and Budget Chairwoman Vanessa Gibson (D-Bronx) said the Council has its own priorities.

“As we have in the past, we will fight for a responsible and fair city budget that best serves a city as proudly diverse as New York,” the statement said. “We are committed to ensuring a municipal government that is responsive to the needs of all New Yorkers, while protecting our neighbors who rely on social services and the institutions and initiatives that help keep this city the greatest in the world.”

They said the Council is well aware of the state’s fiscal straits.

“The full impact of this deficit is unknown at the moment, but we will continue to work with our partners in state government to do everything we can to make sure that our 8.6 million constituents don’t lose critical services they depend on.”

They also said while the city’s economy remains healthy, all must plan for future financial slumps.

“We will work with the Administration to find savings in the budget while continuing to grow our priorities like Fair Fares, criminal justice reform, education, affordable housing, homelessness and transportation.”

In a press release issued Thursday afternoon, Citizens Budget Commission President Andrew Rein gave de Blasio’s proposal a mixed review.

“The budget presented today holds the line on new spending programs, which is a welcome and positive change,” Rein said. “However, it misses the opportunity to further improve the City’s preparedness for looming risks — including potential cuts in State aid or weaknesses in the economy.”

Rein wrote that after growing more than 6 percent annually in fiscal years 2018 and 2019, city-funded spending growth is projected to slow to 4 percent in fiscal year 2020 and 1.7 percent in fiscal year 2021.

“There are no new spending programs presented, and the citywide savings plan is estimated to generate enough savings to offset agency expense increases, which are both positive developments,” he said. “Nevertheless, the fiscal year 2021 savings amount to only 0.4 percent of city-funded expenditures; greater agency efforts are needed to increase efficiency.”

Rein also pointed out that in November New Yorkers voted resoundingly for the creation of a Rainy Day Fund, “yet this budget does not include any additional contributions to reserves the City already has.”

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