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The 14 members of the borough’s City Council delegation gave almost half of their combined $66.4 million in capital budget member items to schools this year, although the way that money was spent varied from district to district.
Compared to the city’s $70 billion operating budget, the $15.5 billion capital budget — which builds and maintains the city’s infrastructure — is relatively small, but each Council member has more individual control over how it is spent.
Each Council member is allocated a certain amount of money — usually measured in the hundreds of thousands of dollars — out of the operating budget to fund projects such as local non-profits.
The same is true of the capital budget, but on that side allocations can range upward of $10 million.
In Queens, Council members gave a combined $29.5 million in capital funding to the city Department of Education’s schools and the City University of New York, with many of the projects funding technology upgrades.
(For this analysis TimesLedger Newspapers considered only single-member allocations. Multiple Council members, as well as caucuses and borough delegations, often combine funds, though the practice is not as common with city schools. Budget documents do not make clear, however, how much of the allocation each contributor is responsible for.)
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) brought home the most capital dollars ($8.66 million) among borough delegation members, but he ranked 11th when it came to how much ($1.1 million) he set aside for schools.
The $4.4 million set aside for Councilman Ruben Wills’ (D-Jamaica) projects represented a middle-of-the-road haul, but every dollar went toward education, making him the largest benefactor of schools in the borough.
Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), chairman of the borough delegation, worked with Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) to allocate Wills’ funds after he was stripped of his ability to do so last year for allegedly failing to cooperate fully with a state investigation into a non-profit he was connected to.
Comrie said Wills did not receive many funding requests outside education, and he worked to continue funding those institutions the councilman had previously prioritized.
“That was the recommendation that we made that made the most sense,” Comrie said. “Schools have been one of his priorities anyway, making sure students are catching up on the digital divide.”
Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton) made the single-largest education allocation: a $1 million contribution to renovate the track and field at the Goldie Maple Academy in Arverne. Aside from that, Richards mostly set aside $50,000 for each school in his district, but other Council members took a more selective approach.
Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Fresh Meadows) funded fewer than a dozen projects in her district, choosing to concentrate her dollars in those schools she said were the most needy.
“One year I may have given another school a lot of money,” she said. “Every year I go to see the principal and the parent coordinator to assess their needs.”
Schools in Councilman Dan Halloran’s (R-Whitestone) district got the least amount of money ($770,000) after his overall capital budget was slashed to $1.8 million. Comrie also oversaw a portion of Halloran’s budget after he was charged earlier this year in an alleged public corruption scheme.
Borough Council members made allocations in the following amounts (in millions): Wills ($4.4), Richards ($3.5), Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) ($2.9), Peter Koo (D-Flushing) ($2.9), Koslowitz ($2.9), Comrie ($3.1), Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) ($1.9), Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) ($1.6), James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) ($1.4), Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst) ($1.1), Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) ($1.1), Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) ($1), Peter Vallone, Jr. (D-Astoria) ($1) and Halloran ($.7).
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.
©2013 Community Newspaper Group
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