Mayor Eric Adams released a $102.7 billion preliminary budget for the next fiscal year. He spoke about investing in the city while responding to “slow economic growth,” remaining focused on austerity, and dealing with last year’s asylum seeker crisis at a conference on Thursday, January 12.

“Our city has shown its courage, compassion, and ‘can do’ spirit as we recover from the pandemic,” said Adams.

The preliminary budget took into account pandemic recovery and raised interest rates that caused inflation. It also attempts to balance the city’s slow growth, office vacancy rates, new labor deals with unions and healthcare costs. The biggest unexpected strain to last year’s budget was receiving approximately 40,000 asylum seekers from other states over the last nine months. Adams stated that the crisis cost the city an estimated $1 billion dollars despite some allocated funding from the federal government. 

“Since day one, fiscal discipline has been the hallmark of this administration. We are focused on governing efficiently and measuring success not by how much we spend, but by our achievements. This budget protects funding for the essential services that continue to keep the city safe and clean, drive equity and affordability, and keep us on the path to prosperity,” said Adams.

The preliminary budget maintains $8.3 billion in the city’s reserves. This includes $1.6 billion in the general reserve, $250 million in the capital-stabilization reserve, $4.5 billion in the retiree health benefits trust fund and $1.9 billion in the rainy-day fund. Even with the mayor’s best efforts to save and reduce spending, the budget has still gone up from last year to cover new initiatives. 

Adams wants to invest in affordable housing, sanitation, public safety and renewable energy.  The preliminary budget sets aside $20 million for housing and aims to build 500,000 new homes over the next decade. To meet carbon-reduction and safety targets, the preliminary budget invests $259 million in Local Law 97 and $228 million in street reconstruction projects. The allocation for another academic year is $160 million.

The housing funding and building initiative has been especially well received. 

Valerie White, senior executive director of LISC NY,  applauded the mayor for tackling the citywide housing issue. “We have seen through learned experience that producing solutions to this crisis means that all of us have to make affordable housing a key priority within our institutional policy agendas,” said White.

Meanwhile, there are looming budget cuts to public education due to lost enrollment. The November Financial Plan budget modifications, libraries, and the size of the NYPD budget have not won favor with many advocates, students and city council members. 

Just before the preliminary budget release, Speaker Adrienne Adams and Finance Chair Justin Brannan said they would not vote for or support funding cuts to CUNY, libraries, social services, early childhood education and other essential services “undermined” in the November Plan. After Adams’ conference, they put out another joint statement solidifying their focus on “smart investments” that protect essential services. 

“To that end, many of our concerns with the Mayor’s November Plan remain with the Fiscal Year 2024 Preliminary Budget,” they said in the statement. “The Council will be more closely examining the details of this Preliminary Budget and holding oversight hearings on agency budgets and the efficiencies in current city spending as it relates to the overall priorities of New Yorkers.” 

Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) spokesperson Salma Allam protested cuts to agencies like the Human Resource Administration, the Department of Homeless Services and the Department of Youth and Community Development. “Mayor Adams continues to sacrifice essential services while protecting and preserving an over-bloated police budget,” said Allam in a statement. “Protecting the NYPD’s bloated budget from financial and personnel cuts will not make our city safer and will only serve to increase criminalization of communities the Mayor is neglecting to serve and support.” 

Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about politics 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://bit.ly/amnews1

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