Even before the budget was officially announced to the public, city council members expressed disappointment.
“This is a lot of pain that’s been inflicted by Albany and Washington,” said Lewis Fidler, Brooklyn (D). “It’s really not our doing. We’re going to have to back peddle and fill a lot of holes they inflicted on us.”
A few minutes later, Mayor Bloomberg began his presentation ready for the criticism.
He says the city’s already used two-thirds of its reserve to fill in gaps and will spend the rest next year.
The hot button issue was teachers.
“I’m not trying to lay off teachers,” Bloomberg told the audience.
But he says that’s what will happen. Some will leave through retirement. But about 4,100 teachers will leave through the “last in, first out” policy which Bloomberg has said he doesn’t like.
After teachers, the Police department faces the largest cuts, nearly 200 million dollars.
Next comes the fire department, which stands to lose 94 million dollars in funding.
The mayor says he knows fire fighters will find it very tough.
“Two commissioners jobs are to keep bringing down crime and deaths by fire and response rates and to do it with less,” he said.
Bloomberg does stress his total confidence in the two departments.
But Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano is concerned.
There’s never a good time to close a fire co, never.” Cassano said after the announcement. “If it’s twenty and we have to do that by July 1, those notices have to go out next week.”
Fire companies are different from stations. Several companies can work out of the same station, but cutting twenty companies means 600 fire fighters.
Al Hagan is represents fire department lieutenants, captains and chiefs through the Uniformed Fire Officers Association.
He says the cuts could really hurt the public.
“Fire protection in the city of New York is like a cloth,” Hagan said in a phone interview. “And every company represents a thread in that cloth. When the thread count goes down, the entire fabric becomes weaker.”
Hagan has seen the city talk about cuts before. Cuts have happened in the past. And at times the city councils stepped in to restore the funds. But he doesn’t think that will happen this time.
He thinks the mayor is taking the wrong approach to balance the budget, as does James Parrot, a city government expert at the Fiscal Policy Institute.
Parrot says Bloomberg should also look at ways to increase the city’s income.
“There’s so much focus on cutting government and reducing the number of public sector workers at a time when unemployment is very high,” Parrot said Friday.
“Cutting government budgets is only going to make the economic situation worse.”
Parrot acknowledges the mayor faces similar problems seen in other cities across the nation. A recession where funds are scares and cuts are becoming more common.
Bloomberg now has to convince the city council to pass his plan by July First. The debate has already begun.