The Wall Street Journal - May 04, 2012by MICHAEL HOWARD SAUL
In crafting a spending plan, the mayor placed a clear priority on education, one of the few areas to receive a funding increase in his budget, from $13.3 billion to $13.6 billion. The administration said it plans to boost the total number of teachers for the first time in years.
The budget plan has no new taxes, and administration officials predict there will be very few layoffs.
But the ax fell hard elsewhere. According to budget officials, the mayor's financial plan will cut library subsidies by $92.3 million, child care by $53 million, after-school programs by $18.4 million and cultural institutions by $45.2 million.
Mr. Bloomberg called his budget proposal "responsible" and lauded his administration for attaining "record" low crime, "record" life expectancy, "record" employment and "record" tourism.
But battle lines were already being drawn over the mayor's proposed spending cuts, with some council members and potential mayoral candidates accusing Mr. Bloomberg of turning his back on children and the middle class.
Council Speaker Christine Quinn, an undeclared 2013 mayoral contender with a powerful role in the budget's final outcome, said she has "deep concerns" about cuts to child-care programs. She also said putting 20 fire companies on the chopping block is "needlessly endangering our city's public safety."
Ms. Quinn said no fire companies had been closed since she became speaker in 2006, despite annual efforts by the mayor to shut down 20 of them. New Yorkers "should expect us to be as successful as we have ever been" in blocking that proposal, Ms. Quinn said.
Brooklyn Councilman Brad Lander was harsher. "There is good news for our classrooms, but bad news for just about everything else," Mr. Lander said in an interview. "He's still decimating child care, decimating after school, decimating the libraries, cutting 20 fire companies, cutting senior services, decimating the runaway homeless youth beds."
When a reporter attempted to solicit a response to Mr. Lander's criticism, the mayor replied, "I don't much care what he said, if you really want to know."
As for closing the fire companies, the mayor's own fire commissioner, Salvatore Cassano, has said the move would increase response times in neighborhoods. Mr. Bloomberg suggested the closures wouldn't hurt public safety.
"We have the lowest number of deaths by fire ever in the history of the city," the mayor said. "We know how to keep the city safe and we're going to continue to do so."
City Council officials said the after-school program cuts were particularly tough because--even if funding remained the same--fewer children would be served because the cost per child has increased substantially.
Mr. Bloomberg said there was only so much he could do with limited resources.
"We cannot do everything for everybody, and we can't do everything we want in the size and frequency, or whatever the other words are--that you would like," the mayor said. "But the objective is to try to balance and make choices, and we will do that and do it responsibly."
Mr. Bloomberg said he would work with the City Council in the coming weeks, signaling that--as in previous years--some cuts would be restored before the budget is approved.
The budget proposal represents about a 1% spending hike from the current budget, but Bloomberg aides said most of that increase stems from costs out of the city's control, such as Medicaid and pensions. Expenses the city considers "controllable" are reduced by $110 million, officials said.
While the city doesn't expect large numbers of layoffs, the mayor said there is no money in the budget for employee raises. He also said employees shouldn't expect future mayors to give retroactive raises. "We do not have moneys to give raises--that is clear," the mayor said.
Mr. Bloomberg's proposed budget cuts come as his administration announced that the city's private employment is at an all-time high, surpassing the previous record set in 1969 and outperforming the rest of the country in job growth. But that economic strength came as volatility in the global capital credit markets last year damaged the city's financial-services firms.
Some of the candidates seeking to succeed Mr. Bloomberg next year offered harsh assessments of his budget plan.
"New York will pay the price for shortsighted budget decisions long after the mayor leaves office," Public Advocate Bill de Blasio said. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer said the mayor's budget is "out of touch" with the "daily struggle of middle-class and working families."
The administration projected deficits of $3 billion or more in the next three fiscal years. Mr. Bloomberg proposed dedicating roughly $100 million this year to future deficits.