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CB 7 bracing for deep budget cuts

Community Board 7 stands to lose as much as $16,000 out of its operating budget if proposed cuts by the city are approved for the coming fiscal year. CB 7 District Manager Marilyn Bitterman said such cuts would amount to a lot more than Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposed citywide belt tightening.

Bitterman said the budget setback would be the most substantial since the Giuliani administration when CB 7 lost $28,000, which she said the board still has not recouped entirely. Bitterman called the proposed cuts unfair and said the dramatic loss of funding would require her to lay off a member of her staff, one of just four she has the funding to employ.

"While I understand that the city is in a horrendous state and everyone is in a horrendous state, by [the community boards] taking the cuts, it comes to less than $1 million total," Bitterman said. "It doesn't make an impact on the city budget and I don't know of any city agency that would have to cut their work force by 25 or 30 percent."

Community boards operate as the most localized form of city government, addressing concerns of residents and issuing recommendations to the City Council and the Borough President's office on everything from street renamings and minor zoning variances to multi-billion dollar developments.

Bloomberg has said New York City will not be able to escape the reality of the slowing national economy and has repeatedly said "everyone is going to have to tighten their belts" to deal with the economic hardship that may result.

Bloomberg's preliminary budget called for cuts in virtually every city agency, including the Office of Management and Budget, which oversees the community boards. While the budget has until July to be approved, Bitterman said the OMB has already informed CB 7 of the potential cuts.

"When we were all told the original cut would be $2,500 or even $5,000, we understood. We were willing to do our share," Bitterman said. "But this is just unfair and the bottom line is now I have no choice. My belt is up around my neck and I'm going to strangle."

She said the person she would lose would probably be a senior citizen working on a fixed income who, without the extra money, would be forced to apply for unemployment and other city services, such as food stamps.

"Where is the savings? They look at the bottom line, but is the bottom line really the line to look at?" she said.

Bitterman also pointed out that while many community boards only serve 40,000 to 50,000 residents, CB 7 is one of the largest in the city, serving more than 250,000 residents.

She said while the savings to the city would be minimal, enacting such cuts would prove to be far more dramatic for CB 7's day-to-day operations.

"You can't just look at the bottom line, you've gotta look at the effect of the bottom line," she said.

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at Sstirling@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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