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Don't like the city's budget? 'Blame Albany,' says mayor

Cyril Josh Barker | 4/12/2011, 5:25 p.m.

News of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's 2011 executive budget garnered swift opposition against cuts being made to the city. The sharpest blow comes to the Department of Education, which will lose 6,400 teachers the coming school year.

Among cuts in education, the new budget will also close a 24-hour drop-in center for the homeless, close four city swimming pools and reduce staff for the city's HIV/AIDS services. Bloomberg says that Albany is to blame. In total, 11,000 people will lose their jobs.

The budget carries a price tag of $62.9 billion with no tax increases. A rollover of $3.3 billion of surplus funds from the 2010 fiscal year helped balance this year's budget.

"Our ability to put together a balanced budget is very seriously hampered by state government's continued inaction in addressing its own budget problems," said Mayor Bloomberg.

The reduction in the amount of tax dollars the state returns to the city for education by $493 million will result in a reduction of 6,414 teachers in the coming school year. This translates to over 4,400 layoffs.

United Federation of Teachers (UFT) President Michael Mulgrew said that the city's budget situation was better than it was in January, when the mayor released his preliminary budget.

"But for the sake of the schools and the kids, the city has to join us in Albany in fighting for the revenues we need to prevent all teacher layoffs," he said.

Leoine Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters, said the layoffs are "unacceptable" and that the mayor doesn't have the students' interest at heart. Haimson also pointed out that the DOE has hired five additional deputy chancellors at salaries of more than $190,000.

He said, "Given the mayor's proposed cuts, layoffs to come and rapidly rising school enrollment, this is a tsunami that will devastate our schools and our children's futures. Already, elementary principals have been told to plan for 32 students per class next fall in grades one though five."

One agency that will be saved is the police department, which was originally proposed to take close to 1,000 officers off the streets. The recent Times Square bomb scare and rise in crime are attributed as causes for the law enforcement personnel being saved.

However, the FDNY will see an elimination of staffing at four engine companies and 16 eliminations in the baseline. Fifty firefighters are also being eliminated on 60 engine companies, saving the city close to $15 million.

"New Yorkers deserve to know that this budget will keep them safe-and that includes keeping our fire companies open," said City Council Fire and Criminal Justice Chair Elizabeth Crowley. "Whether its rapidly responding to fires and medical emergencies, building collapses and, most importantly, in this context, terrorist attacks, our fire companies are always among the first to respond and should not be cut."

Another blow to the city's human resources is coming to HIV/AIDS services, where direct city case management staff will be reduced to close to 250. Advocates say this cut is particularly damaging because of the city's HIV/AIDS problem, which would save the city a little over $4 million.

"We are going in the wrong direction for people living with AIDS and HIV in New York City," said Kristin Goodwin of the HIV/AIDS organization Housing Works. "The mayor's budget shows a total disregard for low-income New Yorkers with AIDS who need consistent and reliable access to housing, health care and benefits in order to stay healthy."

Goodwin added that the cut to services is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Local Law 49, and in contempt of federal court.

Other noticeable cuts in the mayor's budget include closing 50 senior centers serving 1,600 seniors daily, reducing subsidies to the library system and eliminating funded adult literacy programs.

In his weekly radio address, the mayor said that state government has not been "prudent" and that lawmakers in Albany have the power to stop the budget cuts.

This is unfair; it's shortsighted and it could seriously harm our economic recovery, Bloomberg said. "That's why we're asking our state legislators to correct the flaws in the state budget and do their part to protect our city."