The Chief
January 17, 2003

Bloomberg Calls For New Round Of Agency Cuts

NYPD May Impose Layoffs to Meet Budget Target

By Deidre McFadyen

Mayor Bloomberg Jan. 10 confirmed what his Police Commissioner had indicated two days earlier: the NYPD may have to lay off cops for the first time since the fiscal crisis of the mid-1970s.

Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly had said that it would be “very difficult” for the department to meet the Mayor’s most recent call for a further 3-percent reduction in the department’s budget without pink slips. While Mr. Kelly declined to offer specifics, the department would have to lay off roughly 1,450 officers to achieve the demanded cutback of $94 million to the department’s $3.4 billion budget through personnel reductions alone.

Warning to PBA

Mr. Bloomberg intimated that layoffs would occur if the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association proved inflexible in negotiating work rule changes. The Mayor has been prodding the municipal unions – so far to no avail – to agree to $600 million in recurring productivity savings over the next fiscal year.

“If we can get, for example, in the case of the police, the existing staff to do more with less, then we won’t need layoffs,” said Mr. Bloomberg on his regular Friday morning radio show. “If we can’t find ways, or if everybody can’t agree on ways to do that, it will probably come down to that. The Police Department in particular is virtually all salaries.”

PBA President Patrick J. Lynch earlier in the week argued that laying off cops would undermine the city’s recovery. “Laying off police officers as this city struggles to fight terrorism and rebuild its economy is not an option,” he said. “The NYPD must be exempt from additional cuts because without an adequate number of police officers, this city is not viable for business or people.”

Other Agencies Cut 6%

The Mayor’s most recent salvo came as most city agencies prepared to submit proposals Jan. 13 for cutting their budgets an additional 6 percent for the 2004 fiscal year, which begins in July. The Department of Education and the four uniformed services were asked to trim their budgets by 3 percent.

This fourth round of spending reductions would come on top of $2.5 billion in agency cuts imposed since Mr. Bloomberg took office last January. The new cutbacks will save the city about $500 million as it seeks to close a projected $3.2 billion deficit in the next projected fiscal year.

Budget Director Mark Page blamed the need for additional reductions on the weak economy in a Jan. 6 memo to agency heads. “Forecasts of the national economy have recently delayed and flattened the outlook for economy recovery,” he wrote “These forecasts are an important underlying factor in the city’s own economic outlook, which drives our expectations. The holiday retail experience, fourth-quarter Wall Street results, and recent tax collection experience all suggest that we must be prepared to address a further decline in our tax revenue resources.”

Pin Blame on Council

But Bloomberg officials also privately faulted the City Council for limiting the property tax hike it approved in November to 18.5 percent, when the Mayor had sought a 25-percent increase.

Council spokesman Chris Policano said the legislative body stood by its decision. “It’s absolutely true that the Council felt that 25 percent was too high, and that’s why we negotiated with the Mayor or to bring it down to 18.5 percent,” he said. “We’re not going to apologize for that.”

The department’s headcount has sunk from an all-time high of 40,802 in March 2000 to 37,800 today. Another thousand are expected to quit over the next six months. In November, the NYPD reduced its July 2003 recruitment class from 2,400 to 500 – the number of new cops needed to meet a headcount target for July of 37,210 roughly the same number as the city had in 1996.

Commissioner Kelly said that the NYPD, at this point intended to proceed with the July hiring class.

The department laid off 103 custodians last month.

Despite a 1,600-officer drop in the police force last year, crime in New York City last year continued an 11-year decline, falling by 5.6 percent.

Mr. Kelly indicated that he would impose layoffs only with reluctance. “We have to continue to provide services, so obviously nobody would want to lay off police officers,” he said. “But we have to examine all the ramifications of the $94 million reduction.”