January 10, 2003

Mayor: Police Layoffs May Be Necessary

By TIMOTHY WILLIAMS Associated Press Writer

Mayor Michael Bloomberg confirmed Friday what has long been suspected: that in order to balance the city's budget, laying off police officers might be necessary.

Earlier this week, the Bloomberg administration directed the Police Department to prepare to cut 3 percent of its budget — and most other city agencies to trim 6 percent — as the city continues to grapple with a projected $3 billion deficit.

The spending reductions would come on top of $2.5 billion in cuts imposed since last January. The city has also borrowed $1.5 billion and raised property taxes by 18.5 percent or $3 billion over 18 months.

Bloomberg has been seeking deals with municipal unions — so far with little success — to agree to what the administration says are "productivity gains" but what unions denounce as "givebacks."

"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," Bloomberg said Friday during his weekly radio show on WABC. "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."

Earlier this week, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said it would be "very difficult" to make the 3 percent cut — about $94 million — without layoffs.

"Obviously, nobody would want to lay off police officers," said Kelly. "But we have to examine all the ramifications of the $94 million reduction."

Kelly said the department's $3 billion annual budget is about 95 percent salaries.

A spokesman for the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association did not immediately return a call seeking comment Friday, but the union has aggressively denounced cuts to the department's budget in the past.

The Bloomberg administration has been trying to get the PBA to accept a number of money-saving reforms, including restructuring officers' working schedules for shorter shifts _ but a total of 10 additional work days each year.

Despite reductions in the size of the department to its current total of 37,800 uniformed officers, in 2002, the city had its lowest figure for homicides in 39 years.