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Campaign for Fiscal Equity

Thu, Oct 9, 2008

City Agencies Submit Budget-cutting Ideas

Amisha Padnani, Staten Island Advance

In the last two weeks, city agencies begrudgingly dug into their budgets in search of lines to cut.

Yesterday, they submitted ideas on how they would cut 2.5 percent from their departments' finances.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered the cuts in late September in light of the convulsions on Wall Street.

City agencies were mandated to cut 2.5 percent this fiscal year and 5 percent the following year, for a total savings of $1.5 billion by 2010.

Since the mayor made his announcement, the ground has been rumbling with growing opposition.

Numerous organizations involved with health care, education, immigration and welfare have formed a coalition called One New York: Fighting for Fairness. Among them are the United Federation of Teachers, the New York Immigration Coalition and the Working Families Party.

Geri Palast, one of the coalition's organizers and the executive director of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, said the main goal is to involve all city agencies for a broad scope of the budget issues ahead.

"We can't really have people pit against one another," she said. "We really need to talk about being one New York."

Ms. Palast said that members of the coalition were planning to rally on the steps of City Hall tomorrow to encourage Bloomberg to look at other ways the city could save money, besides slashing budgets.

"We can't just look at the expenses side, we have to look at revenues," she said. "It can't all be about cutting our way out of this problem."

At a news conference yesterday morning, Bloomberg said it was too soon to provide details on the proposed cuts and future ways the city will save money.

"It's much too premature, but it's a process that's under way," he said.

But with uncertainty bearing down on Wall Street and global markets each day, local officials and watchdog groups are certain the budget cuts are only the beginning.

"There's going to be pain. These are difficult financial times," said City Councilman James Oddo (R-Mid-Island/Brooklyn). "It's going to be bad -- it's just a question of degrees of how bad."

He stopped short of speculating what some future economic measures might entail.

However, Maria Doulis, senior research associate with the Citizens Budget Commission, said taxpayers will be next. "First, there could be further cuts to agency spending," she said. "Second, there's revenue action."

More specifically, Ms. Doulis said Bloomberg might repeal the hard-fought property tax break, as he has hinted in recent months. If that happens, she said her commission would appeal to the mayor to first eliminate the $400 homeowners' rebate program, which would save an estimated $256 million annually. Raising property taxes would save $1 billion. Once those two options have been exhausted, Ms. Doulis said the mayor is likely to start lobbying state officials to increase contributions to pension plans.

Numerous city agencies contacted yesterday were tight-lipped about what cuts they were proposing. The amended budget including the cuts will be ready in early November, following public input, officials said.

Amisha Padnani is a news reporter for the Advance. She may be reached at


©2008 SI Advance
© 2008 All Rights Reserved.

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