AN IMPERFECT PLAN

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The mayor’s plan to save $75 million by reorganizing and consolidating social service programs without cutting actual services doesn’t live up to its billing, according to the Independent Budget Office — and the mayor’s deputies admit they still have a lot of figuring to do.

In a damning analysis of the mayor’s social service reform plan, the IBO said last week that about $39 million of the savings will probably have to come from service cuts, primarily to after-school programs and job training, or from shifting costs to the nonprofit groups that contract with the city to provide those services.

Mayor Bloomberg’s plan, first announced as part of his budget in April, asserts the savings would come from replacing city funds with federal funds in some cases, reducing administrative costs by closing the Department of Employment, consolidating programs in six other agencies, and replacing the most costly programs with cheaper versions.

In reality, however, the mayor’s staff admits they are not entirely sure where all of the savings will come from: “This is a target,” said Deputy Mayor Esther Fuchs at a City Council hearing last week.

Among the more controversial changes: folding after-school programs now handled by the Administration for Children’s Services into the Department of Youth and Community Development, and eliminating the Department of Employment by shifting its services for unemployed adults and dislocated workers to other agencies.

“We want to eliminate administrative duplication and make sure that city, state and federal money can be used more effectively,” testified Fuchs.

The IBO insists, however, that those numbers can’t add up without affecting services. ACS currently offers after-school care to 18,000 five- to 12-year olds in privately run day care centers. These slots would be converted to less expensive school-based programs, like those that DYCD already runs for teens in the afternoons, for a savings of $15 million.

While the IBO agrees that the youth agency is the most logical home for these programs, a good outcome “assumes that the DYCD after-school programs can provide the same type of service as ACS day care programs currently do, despite a 27 percent reduction in the per-slot funding,” reads its report.

Assured Fuchs in her testimony last week, “We have no interest in dismantling effective programs.”

As for the future of the Department of Employment, City Councilmember Bill de Blasio expressed concern that the job training programs for adults would be shifted to the already overburdened Human Resources Administration, as the mayor has proposed.
“We think that’s a reasonable point,” said Fuchs, noting that the Department of Small Business Services is a serious candidate to oversee those services.