Mayor Eric Adams released his $98.5 billion preliminary city budget for Fiscal Year 2023 last week, which reduced spending by $2.3 billion by prioritizing savings. Parts of the budget seemed to satisfy public officials.
Adams said his main focus is taking steps to create a more just, safer, and prosperous city during such a transformative moment.
The prelim budget aims to target economic areas of the city still struggling, including the financial district, real estate, job recovery and the restaurant and retail industries. It prioritizes funding for public safety and the ‘Blueprint to End Gun Violence,’ low-income commuters using lower cost MetroCards, summer jobs for city youth, more healthcare screenings, and expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit that applies to low- to moderate-income workers with qualifying children.
Council Speaker Adrienne Adams and Councilmember Justin Brannan, who chairs the Finance Committee Chair, said in a joint statement that Adams was off to a “promising start” to the budget process. “As our city looks ahead to a post-pandemic recovery, we must strive to adopt a budget that promotes equity, health and safety for all New Yorkers,” they said. “We must continue investing in New York City’s families and workforce, while ensuring affordable housing, health equity, small businesses and mental health care are priorities.”
Adams and Brannan applauded funding for the Fair Fares program to help support public transit access for low-income New Yorkers and the “historic investment” in summer youth employment. They said they also appreciate the mayor’s proposals for new family health services and the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit.
The city’s economy had slowed due to COVID-19’s Omicron variant, in-person office vacancies, and job recovery. As a result, Adams’ budget aims to save money on spending through the Program to Eliminate the Gap. He increased budget reserves to a total of $6.1 billion, meaning $1 billion in the General Reserve, $1 billion in the Rainy Day Fund, $3.8 billion in the Retiree Health Benefits Trust, and $250 million in the Capital Stabilization Fund.
Adams had said in the presser that the city must do better to prepare for the uncertainties of the future, and that his administration is examining the last of the stimulus dollars and then supporting the passage of the Build Back Better Bill for more funding.
“The goal of the budget was to—as I stated in my speech—was to really go at the underlying reasons of that we’re seeing the institutional poverty and inequality in this city,” said Adams in a presser. “Remember, we’re going to lose this stimulus from the federal government, we’re not going to continue to have it. So, we have to get it right in 2022 and lay the foundation for ’23 and two fiscal years ’23 and ’24.”
Of course, the budget was still criticized by many as not being big enough or cutting too much.
Housing advocates and schools with low enrollment rates saw their pieces of the budget get smaller.
Freshman Councilmember Shahana Hanif explained in her community newsletter that the slightly decreased budget had positive investments that she supported, such as improving maternal health disparities for women of color, increasing summer youth employment, and improving tax abatements for childcare centers.
She said all the positives don’t hide the cuts made to school staff, the halt on the city’s composting program, and the elimination of thousands of open positions across the city including some agencies with serious staffing shortages.
“This is a budget without real investments in our city’s immigrant communities and one that doubles down on putting more cops on our streets to create the illusion of safety,” wrote Hanif. “I was elected to help our city thrive again, not oversee an austerity budget.”
The prelim budget will be edited and reviewed plenty of times before its City Council vote on a final budget in June. It’ll go into effect July 1.
“The Council looks forward to fulfilling its role in examining this Preliminary Budget through hearings and other efforts. We as leaders have a responsibility to ensure that our Fiscal Year 2023 budget advances equity, fiscal responsibility, and a strong recovery for New York City,” said Speaker Adams and Brannan in a joint statement.
Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about culture and politics in New York City for The Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting: https://tinyurl.com/fcszwj8w