Bloomberg Announces Workforce, Budget Cuts

Firefighters, police among the cuts

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Wednesday he will eliminate two popular pieces of property tax relief because the city's economy is in distress and can no longer afford it.

One of them is a $400 property tax rebate, which he said he would retain just six weeks ago. The other is a temporary 7 percent property tax break put into place last year.

The rebate was first implemented in 2004 to help owners of one- and two-family homes after the city enacted an 18.5 percent property tax hike. Checks that homeowners were expecting this fall will not go out.

"We know how to get through the tough times ahead," Bloomberg said. "We're going to do it by pushing each dollar further and by asking New Yorkers to come together."

The sobering budget update, coming amid a national economic slowdown, includes the decision not to start a new class of more than 1,000 police cadets this January. The NYPD will go without those officers, and the next class will begin in July.

Bloomberg is also cutting hundreds of jobs, raising fees and fines, cutting library hours, closing dental health clinics that serve poor children and reducing nighttime staffing at five firehouses.

The work force will shrink by 3,000 employees: 500 through layoffs and the rest through attrition. The updated budget plan shows that the city faces budget gaps of $303 million this fiscal year and $3.7 billion next year, partly because revenues have declined.

To help bridge those deficits, Bloomberg asked all city agencies in September to come up with their own plans to cut spending by 2.5 percent this fiscal year, which ends next June, and additional cuts of 5 percent the following year.

Those are targeted to save $500 million this year and $1 billion in fiscal 2010.

Along with eliminating the new class of police cadets, the city will cut 475 jobs in the education department. The majority are central administrative jobs, and about 50 are in schools, but not teachers.

The firefighting training academy will reduce its program from 23 weeks to 18 weeks to save operational costs. The mayor, who drew criticism when he closed firehouses to save money during his first term, also plans to eliminate nighttime engine companies in five firehouses that also have ladder companies. The move allows those firehouses to stay open but with fewer firefighters at night.

The Department of Health will close its dental health clinics that serve some 17,000 poor children each year. Officials said the city would rather not shut down the program, but lacking other options they decided to eliminate a service that many families can access through Medicaid.

Other cuts include eliminating 320 seasonal parks department jobs and not filling 187 sanitation jobs dedicated to street cleaning.

Using his budget knife on such key jobs and services sets up a more difficult environment as he prepares to run for re-election next year.

The billionaire independent mayor last month announced that he believes the city needs him to stay on past the end of 2009, when his second term ends, to manage the long-term effects of the financial crisis and economic downturn. In just a matter of weeks, he persuaded the City Council to change the law that limited him and other officeholders to two consecutive terms, and on Monday he signed the bill allowing him to run for mayor again.

Bloomberg, who has enjoyed approval ratings in the 70s since his re-election in 2005, may see those numbers fall back to the levels of his first term, when he was making cuts and raising taxes to help reverse the city's post-Sept. 11 economic woes.

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