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City budget passed but deep cuts still felt

CYRIL JOSH BARKER Amsterdam News Staff | 7/7/2011, 11:01 a.m.

Passing on time, the City Council approved New York City's $66 billion budget for fiscal year 2012 in a 49-1 vote on Wednesday. The one person who did not vote in favor of the budget was Brooklyn City Councilman Charles Barron.

While the budget may sound like good news to many people, with several services saved, Barron said that there are still some holes. Over 4,000 teachers are being saved from layoffs, and 20 firehouses will remain open.

However, major cuts will be made to city services, including the layoff of several workers in the Departments of Transportation and Parks and the Administration for Children's Services. While Mayor Michael Bloomberg is celebrating the fact that the budget included no tax increases, Barron said the city will still suffer.

"It is unconscionable," Barron said. "$66 billion to spend on the budget and 53,000 summer youth slots are being taken away, leaving 31,000 summer youth jobs. How do you cut that? We are going to have a long, hot summer and they are lighting up already with gunfire. Over 140,000 youth applied for summer jobs."

Barron also pointed out that teachers are going to resign and that class sizes will increase under the new budget. Layoffs in the classroom will include school aid workers and parent coordinators. The budget also didn't save the day care voucher, forcing parents to shell out $2,000 for day care.

However, Barron said the sharpest blow will be to the 1,200 parks, transportation and ASC workers who will be laid off. He said most of those workers are low-income people of color.

"Every city agency is suffering. The mayor just approved $100 million in capital for a theater in Brooklyn for Shakespeare, yet you won't spend $20 million to build youth centers? This budget is racist," he said.

Bloomberg, on the other hand, said that budget is going to do the city good as the Big Apple gets back on its feet through the economic crisis.

"We are able to produce a budget that will keep our city strong through difficult economic circumstances because of our unwavering commitment to fiscal responsibility over the years that produced savings that are now allowing us to avert the most severe cuts," he said. "Across the city, families are still struggling to recover from the national recession-they are cutting back on expenses and finding savings wherever they can. City government owes taxpayers a budget that does the same, and that is exactly what we are delivering."

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said that New Yorkers should be pleased with the budget because it protects crucial services like firehouses and senior centers.

"Even in these difficult fiscal times, New Yorkers expect us to protect the most vital services without putting our future economic stability at risk," said Quinn. "I want to thank Mayor Bloomberg and all of my colleagues for coming together to make tough choices and produce a budget that is both fiscally responsible and responds to the needs of real New Yorkers."

In response to the budget keeping teachers in the classroom, United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said that, had the budget not gone through, it would have meant massive layoffs for thousands of teachers.

The UFT has agreed to concessions in their contract to produce savings for the city to help avoid teacher layoffs. The union has agreed to cease all teacher sabbaticals for one year and reform the Absentee Teacher Reserve, requiring all teachers in the reserve pool who do not have full-time assignments to work as substitute teachers, thereby reducing substitute costs. The union concessions are expected to save a total of $60 million.

"I want to thank all the parties involved in this agreement for their willingness to come together to prevent the harm that would come to our students from a massive loss of public school teachers," said UFT President Michael Mulgrew. "In particular, I'd like to cite the key role played by Council Speaker Christine Quinn and her members and staff, along with Chancellor Dennis Walcott and the DOE officials who worked with us to find ways to prevent what could have been a disaster for our schools."