Bloomberg's budget: More teachers but fewer after-school slots and well-paying jobs

STEPHON JOHNSON Amsterdam News Staff | 4/16/2013, 4:50 p.m.

It couldn't all be good news, right?

Last week, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg revealed a $68.7 billion executive budget plan for the fiscal year 2013, with a city-funded portion of $49.2 billion. According to the city, the executive budget would reduce "year-over-year controllable city expenditures by $110 million" from fiscal year 2012. Primarily, pensions, health care, Medicaid and debt service--expenses not completely controlled by the city--would rise by $1.9 billion, a 7.2 percent increase from fiscal year 2012.

"Our budget won't impose any new taxes on New Yorkers, maintains the strength of the NYPD and continues our strong support for public schools," said Bloomberg. "We're able to make all of those commitments as a result of years of fiscal care, foresight and a constructive partnership with the City Council, as we began setting aside savings and reducing spending well before most other city and state governments heeded the economic storm warnings."

Bloomberg added that in the not-so-distant past, a drop in Wall Street profits would have been a crushing blow, but the diversification of the city's economy has lessened its effects.

"Our efforts in the tech, TV and film, tourism and higher education sectors are producing results, with private employment now at its highest level ever in the city, exceeding the record set back in 1969, and we expect this growth in private sector jobs to continue," Bloomberg said.

But not everyone was completely satisfied with Bloomberg's assessment.

Councilman Jumaane Williams thought a few things were missing from his budget.

"Mayor Bloomberg was elected in part on the promise of the financial creativity he would bring to City Hall, but I cannot find that exhibited in this budget," Williams said in a statement. "We may face serious budget gaps, but the administration has the tools at its disposal to fill them without cutting essential programs."

Williams also pointed out, "There are over $10 billion in contracts that could be examined for inefficiencies and overall necessity; much of these contracts are with the Department of Education, which has never responded to the City Council's request for clarity," stated Williams.

"The DOE, by its own admission, has also failed to collect almost $400 million in Medicaid reimbursements. The allocation of monies from the Retiree Health Benefit Trust Fund in fiscal year 13 and fiscal year 14 can be recalibrated. Additionally, because the mayor refuses to hire new firefighters in spite of Judge Nicholas Garaufis' ruling, the resulting overtime pay is costing the city $60 million."

According to the mayor's budget, funding for education will increase from $13.3 billion in fiscal year 2012 to $13.6 billion in fiscal year 2013. The city said that the increase in education spending allowed them to increase the total number of teachers in schools.

City Hall said the executive budget relies on $300 million of funding in the next fiscal year for education that they said would only be realized if the city and the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) finally agree on an evaluation system that meets the state and federal requirement. If they don't reach an agreement by January of 2013, the city said they'd have to make amendments to the education portion of the budget in order to compensate for the loss of funding.