Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council reached an agreement Monday on a $68.5 billion budget that they said includes a combination of resources from previous years, one-shot infusions and revenues from an improving economy to avoid raising taxes and laying off essential workers and finds even more funding for child care programs that had been under threat of cuts.
"A budget is a statement of priority," Council Speaker Christine Quinn said, announcing the agreement with Bloomberg and a host of City Council members. "With this budget, all of us in City Hall have made it clear that the children of New York City are without a doubt our No. 1 priority."
The legislators reached the deal, which covers the fiscal year that begins July 1, days before the deadline. The City Council is expected to vote on the budget agreement this week.
Bloomberg's budget proposal this year used several one-time cash infusions to avoid the deeper cutbacks that have been on the table in recent years. But his proposed reductions to low-income child care programs had been a sticking point with City Council members who warned they would only further jeopardize the city's most vulnerable families.
Despite the deal, the budget could still be thrown into disarray later in the year. Officials are counting on $635 million in revenue from a planned sale of new taxi medallions that is currently held up in court. If the courts rule against the city, the auction could be further postponed or canceled. And if the money doesn't materialize by June 2013, the city will be forced to institute further cutbacks.
Under the agreement, the city's child care and out-of-school programs would get $75 million more in fiscal year 2013 than the level they're at currently. The mayor had proposed slicing about half the 52,000 slots in city-sponsored after-school programs serving low-income neighborhoods. More than one-third of the 42,000 child care slots for children in low-income working families had also been on the chopping block.
Quinn said that the funding would not only keep all the threatened spots but add to them.
The announcement was met with praise by advocates at Campaign for Children, which said the "investment in child care and after-school programs is an investment in our city's future."
"We applaud the City Council and Mayor Bloomberg for coming to an agreement to save vital child care and after-school services for New York's working families," the Campaign said. "We thank the City Council and Speaker Quinn for once again making the City's children a priority as they worked to create a balanced budget."
When pressed, officials declined to specify what had come in lower on the list of priorities than did expanding child care, not laying off firefighters, police officers and teachers and not raising taxes.
Bloomberg said city libraries would be getting about their level of current funding. Asked about it after the announcement, Councilman Domenic Recchia Jr., chair of the finance committee, specified that it would be less. An exact amount was not available.
Libraries had been under threat of a $90 million cut, which would have shuttered 12 of the New York Public Library system's 87 branches and closed the remaining locations an extra one or two days each week. The reduction would have also hit library systems in Brooklyn and Queens.
Once again, fire companies are safe in the budget agreement. For several years, the mayor has threatened to shutter 20 fire companies, a move the fire commissioner has said would delay response times. But each year the final budget deal has saved them.
Under the agreement, the city's roster of public school teachers will grow for the first time in several years. When the mayor issued his final budget proposal in May, he said it contained new money to replace the nearly 2,600 teachers expected to retire or quit at the end of this school year and enough money to hire for about 1,000 new slots.
Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott has said the funds will offer teachers and students "a year of stability" after a period of several years in which the schools lost 1 out of 15 teachers through attrition.
Bloomberg said the budget included $2.4 billion from the previous fiscal year being carried over, as well as growing tax revenues. He said revenues, hurt by declines in the financial sector, have been helped by growth in other industries such as film and television, technology and tourism. He said the city's private sector has rebounded from the recession, regaining 200 percent of the jobs that had been lost.
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