From The Mayor's Desk ...
There is growing concern about the state of our economy - and for good reason. Nearly all the key economic indicators suggest that the national economy has turned downward, and that we may be headed for a recession. But in New York City, we are better prepared than ever to weather any tough times - because we didn't wait for the tough times to hit before taking action.
Over the past several years, we used the economy's sunny days to save for the future. We prepaid debt, saved $2.5 billion for our retirees' healthcare costs, and budgeted responsibly. When storm clouds started to appear on the horizon last year, I directed all city agencies to tighten their belts, which generated $1.5 billion in savings.
Last week, I announced our budget proposal for the coming fiscal year, which begins on July 1st. The budget takes into account the economic uncertainties ahead of us, while also continuing investments that will ensure our city's long-term growth. For example, the budget includes nearly $15 billion to build new schools and modernize existing buildings over the next five years. It also funds major job-creating projects such as the redevelopment of Coney Island. And it continues significant investments in the city's infrastructure - such as upgrades to our bridges and sewers, and improvements to our mass transit system.
The budget also builds on our commitment to improve the efficiency of government by employing the latest technology. Last week, we saw two great examples of how technology can improve public services and public safety. First, the Department of Consumer Affairs announced a new online system that will allow many different types of business owners to renew licenses online instead of waiting in line for the same service. Second, our Fire Department began building a state-of-the-art facility that will train New York's Bravest for one of the most notoriously complex parts of the job: fighting fires in high-rise buildings.
Technology has the power to make government work better - and our continued investment in it will save the taxpayers money over the long term. But in the short term, many New Yorkers are worried about balancing their own budgets. To make that job a little easier, our budget for 2009 includes a continuation of the $400 property-tax rebate for homeowners. It also proposes extending the one-year, 7 percent property tax cut to a second year. That extension is contingent on a variety of factors, including the economy, and the help we get from our partners in state government and the municipal unions. But I'm hopeful that we can all work together to bring tax relief to New Yorkers, who will spend that money here in New York, strengthening our local economy.
We've been through hard times before - and come out stronger. Six years ago, many thought New York was down for the count. Instead, we steered our city to a record-setting recovery. Today, because we've worked to diversify our economy, because we've managed our budget responsibly, and because we've made bold investments in our future, we are even better prepared for whatever lies ahead.