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Mayor’s ‘13 budget draws Queens ire

Mayor Michael Bloomberg's fiscal year 2013 executive budget does not call for teacher layoffs as in previous years but threatens deep cuts for libraries, after-school programs and firehouses. Photo courtesy Bloomberg
TimesLedger Newspapers

While Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s $68.7 billion proposed budget poses no threats to teaching positions, the cuts to firehouses, after-school programs and the library’s budget have some in Queens rallying for another fight.

“We still have this deficit that we’re going to have to approach,” Bloomberg said during his presentation of the budget last Thursday.

The makeup of the new budget is $68.7 billion, with $49.2 billion funded by city dollars. Bloomberg said $6.2 billion has been saved through 11 rounds of cuts made across all of the city’s agencies since 2007, and that additional revenues would be coming from the sales of yellow cab medallions and $300 million that will be received only after the city and the United Federation of Teachers union agrees on new teacher evaluations.

Nevertheless, Bloomberg said numerous cost-cutting measures were implemented in the budget to stave off a $2 billion gap. He said while tax revenues have grown, they have risen at a weaker rate than expected.

Personal income, business, sales and real estate taxes accounted for $24.2 billion in fiscal year 2012 and would climb to $25.2 billion, or $1 billion more, in the upcoming fiscal year 2013, according to the budget projections. The city has had to pay more for education and capital construction, but has spent less in other parts of the budget.

In previous years, Bloomberg threatened to balance the budget through teacher layoffs, firehouse closings and reductions in library hours, triggering protests at firehouses and libraries across Queens. While fiscal year 2013’s budget will allow for an increase in the number of teachers in the system, it calls for the closing of 20 firehouses and shortened library hours as well as eliminating some early childhood care and after-school programs.

State Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) criticized this plan in an extensive statement as “irresponsible.”

“The mayor’s proposed budget is out of touch with the struggles of working New Yorkers and closes the city’s deficit on the backs of our children and first responders,” Meng said.

Thomas Galante, chief executive officer of the Queens Library, said the executive budget would cut the Queens Library’s funds by $26.7 million. Such a slashing would require that 18 of the system’s 62 libraries would have to close, more than 600 library workers could lose their jobs, no libraries would have Sunday service and most libraries would be closed four to five days a week, with only the Jamaica Library open Saturdays.

“New Yorkers need public library doors open. Demand for library services continues to stay strong, even with the effects of the past lean years,” Galante said. “We need the budget cut restored and we need it included in future city budgets so we can turn our full attention to serving the community.”

In response to questions about how the cuts would affect city services, Bloomberg contended that the city has done more with less and is committed to making sure the streets are safe and the most vulnerable residents are not left without food or shelter.

“Sometimes more equipment or more people don’t always get you better service,” he said.

Bloomberg projected a $3 billion budget gap in fiscal year 2014.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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