While lawmakers in Albany have yet to come to an agreement on a state budget for the next fiscal year—despite being nearly three months past deadline—the New York City Council and Mayor Michael Bloomberg agreed on a $63 billion city budget on June 24, and the Council voted to approve the budget today.
In a statement, Bloomberg and the Council announced that the budget was balanced, ahead of its July 1st deadline and doesn’t raise taxes. Still, belt-tightening measures will be taken at every city agency to close a recession-fueled budget gap, the Mayor said in a radio address this weekend.
A number of cuts that city politicians fought against for months were spared. Public pools will stay open this summer, and funding to many childcare services were restored. None of the city’s firehouses will close—including Ladder 53 on City Island, which was one of 20 houses on the chopping block.
City Councilman Joel Rivera, whose district covers Fordham, Belmont and East Tremont, said he was mostly happy with how the budget agreement turned out. He hailed the restoration of the city’s firehouse funding, that city parks and cultural institutions would stay open, and that libraries would get enough funding to operate five days a week (though hours will still be cut).
“Those were some of the top priorities—how do we protect those things,” Rivera said. “I think we were able to do that, as tough as it was.”
Cuts to many of the city’s senior centers, however, will remain intact, forcing a number across the city to close their doors. Rivera said the City Council saved about 20 of the 50 senior centers slated to close – including two in the northwest Bronx – but that about 30 centers the city deems the least utilized will have to shut down.
“At some point, I’m going to be a senior myself,” Rivera said. “They’ve paid their dues, and now it’s time for them to relax. We should not be cutting that.”
Things haven’t been as smooth for lawmakers in Albany – the State Senate and Assembly are still locked in a disagreement with Governor David Paterson over this year’s budget, which was due on April 1.
Lawmakers passed an amended budget this week that included millions of dollars in restored spending – much of it going towards education – that were immediately vetoed by Governor Paterson.
In a statement, a spokesman for Paterson said the legislators were spending money the state doesn’t have and that their budget ignores the possibility of an additional $1 billion loss the state could face if federal Medicaid funding, known as FMAP, is cut by Congress this year.
“It’s unfortunate,” said Bronx Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, of the budget’s delay. “I understand that [the Governor] needs to see that there’s a balanced budget by making certain cuts. But at the same time, we need to be smart about where those cuts are being made.”