On Thursday, February 1, Mayor Bill de Blasio revealed a new $88.7 billion preliminary budget, which despite possible state and federal funding cuts is $4 billion more than what was proposed at this time last year, a 4.7 percent increase.
Before it is finalized in June, there are sure to be many changes to the mayor’s spending plan. However, in past years, these changes usually meant large increases in the budget.
Back in the beginning of 2017, de Blasio preliminary budget for the current 2018 yeat was originally $84.7 billion and has since grown to $87.4 billion.
Growth of items the mayor started in his first term like affordable housing and universal pre-K as well as higher labor costs were cited by de Blasio as reasons for the higher spending despite the uncertainity looming on the funding horizon.
At City Hall at a presentation of the budget, de Blasio said, “Everything is by design and we feel the design is right. The big pillars are in place and are naturally growing. We’re not throwing out a whole host of big, flashy new programs.”
According to The Post, “City officials pointed to a total of $750 million in spending on new agency initiatives split almost evenly between the current fiscal year and the upcoming one, which begins on July 1. The largest single item is a new recurring expense of $150 million allocated this year for homeless-shelter costs — which have risen as the city transitions families out of violation-plagued apartments and into costlier hotel rooms. The apartments, known as ‘clusters,’ cost $85 per day on average, compared to an average hotel-room cost of $222 per day, which includes social services.”
A subsidy program for school buses also received an additional $41.8 million from the city in the current fiscal year, despite the fact that only one firm, Reliant Transportation, has benefited from the program over the past two years, receiving $61.2 million.
Over two years, $37.3 million has been added by officials to the Department of Correction, mainly for additional “active-supervision posts,” even though the city has claimed its jails have become safer.
The Post reports, “Hizzoner and financial officials noted that new-initiative costs over the two fiscal years were offset by a combined $901 million in agency savings. But budget watchdogs noted that nearly all of those savings came from lower-than-anticipated debt-service payments and higher-than-expected state and federal reimbursements, rather than from more efficient government.”
Citizens Budget Commission president Carol Kellermann said, “Before the going gets tough, the mayor should get going by limiting spending growth, bolstering the savings plan and adding to reserves.”
By Rachel Shapiro