Controlling N.Y. City’s Finances Keeps Us Strong
New York City’s fundamental strengths really add up. We’re continuing to reduce crime to levels not seen in generations. Fire deaths are at an all-time low. Our public schools are setting the pace for the entire state. New Yorkers are living longer and healthier lives. And our economy is far stronger than that in many parts of the nation.
A big factor in all that progress is that we’ve kept city government’s own finances in order. Unlike too many other cities and states, we saved when times were good, and anticipated and prepared for the last national recession before it hit. Partnering with Speaker Christine Quinn and her colleagues on the City Council, we’ve also continued to make the tough but right choices to steer New York’s recovery. The budget for the next 12 months – which the Council approved last week – will enable us to keep moving ahead. New York City has a balanced and on-time budget that protects our most important services without teacher layoffs, firehouse closings, or higher taxes.
Doing that wasn’t easy. Because even though the city’s economy is growing and local tax revenues are increasing, we were still hit hard by recordlevel cuts in the number of tax dollars that State government returned to the city this year. Furthermore, the stimulus funds that Washington provided to offset the effects of the national recession are now largely expiring.
The result was a big hit on New York City’s finances. It fell hardest on our public schools, which faced nearly $2 billion in reduced State and Federal support. We weren’t about to lose the ground we’ve gained for our 1.1 million students. So we decided to make up that State and Federal shortfall with City tax dollars. But doing that left other City agencies far less to work with.
We lessened some of that pain with funds that we’d prudently set aside in earlier years. And by making $60 million worth of concessions on previously negotiated benefits, the United Federation of Teachers helped us balance the City’s budget and, most importantly, avoid teacher layoffs.
Unfortunately, some service cutbacks and layoffs are in the cards in the months ahead – although cooperative action with other unions could still make a difference. And looking 12 months down the road, we project that we’ll enter the next budget year with a $5 billion deficit – which is why we held back some current reserve funds instead of spending them all now. But although the road ahead won’t be easy, the good news is that we’ve protected the core services New Yorkers rely on, so that we can continue to improve our schools, grow our economy, and protect our neighborhoods.