Huffpost New York

Bloomberg Budget Plan Calls For Cuts, Layoffs

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NEW YORK (Associated Press) -- New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed a range of painful cuts to city services in his budget plan Thursday, including layoffs he said are unavoidable because it is getting "harder and harder" to trim expenses.

Bloomberg outlined his vision for the city's fiscal 2011 budget, which will be negotiated with the City Council over the next several months before a spending plan is adopted in late spring or early summer. The new budget year begins July 1.

The billionaire mayor said the economic picture has improved, but is far from bright.

Job losses will be less severe than expected but are expected to continue through this year. Wall Street saw record profits in 2009 -- the city forecasts $58.1 billion -- but those are predicted to fall back as interest rates rise.

"Our city's economy still has a long ways to go toward recovery," Bloomberg said. He added that New York "can't escape another set of difficult budget choices."

To help close a deficit of about $3.5 billion in fiscal 2011, his plan contains $484 million of savings for this fiscal year, and $1.1 billion for fiscal 2011.

The mayor's plan does not contain any new taxes. After raising property and sales taxes in recent years, he said he did not think it was fair to overburden struggling New Yorkers.

The moves include eliminating four fire engine companies on top of 16 slated for closing last year, delaying a class of police cadets, shuttering four city swimming pools, cutting library budgets and closing a 24-hour homeless drop-in center.

Bloomberg also wants to raise parking rates from $2 an hour to $2.50 in midtown Manhattan and is examining the idea of eliminating the emergency fire alarm box system on city streets, which would require legislative approval.

He proposed slashing the 300,000-person city work force by more than 4,200 jobs, 834 through layoffs and 3,352 through attrition.

The police, fire, corrections and sanitation departments are being spared from layoffs, which are mostly in the health department, cultural institutions and libraries.

The mayor also is asking for union savings, including a proposed smaller annual raise for teachers.

Educators typically see a 4 percent raise automatically included in the budget. Bloomberg is proposing that teachers accept a 2 percent raise on the first $70,000 of their salary for the next two years.

The teachers union called the proposal "simply unacceptable."

Bloomberg threatened that rejecting it could mean 2,500 teacher layoffs.

"The world has changed, and we have to make a choice," Bloomberg said.

He also proposed basing raises for other unions on savings negotiated through productivity, pension reform and health care givebacks.

Bloomberg has for years called on agencies to come up with revenue-generating programs, in addition to trimming their own budgets.

Some of the ideas in his budget plan Thursday include more fees for some buildings department applications, fines for repeat unnecessary fire alarms and higher fees for health department courses such as the online food protection exam for restaurant supervisors.

The state budget proposed by Gov. David Paterson last week cast a shadow over the city's proposed budget plan.

As Bloomberg told lawmakers earlier this week in Albany, the governor's budget as-is would mean far worse cuts for the city than what the mayor outlined Thursday.

"If it wasn't for the state, I would feel relatively comfortable," Bloomberg said.

He said Paterson's proposed 2010-11 budget would cut $1.5 billion in funding to the city. That would force the city to layoff 3,150 police officers and 1,050 firefighters, close some firehouses and eliminate 8,500 teachers.

The city won't know until March or April whether it will have to adopt those plans.