New York Daily News

 January 24, 2017, 2:30 PM

  

 

Mayor de Blasio proposes $84.67B budget with more money for streets, schools, homelessness

BY ERIN DURKIN

Mayor de Blasio is rolling out an $84.67 billion city budget proposal for next year.  (ANTHONY DELMUNDO/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)

Mayor de Blasio proposed a $84.67 billion city budget Tuesday, pumping more money into streets, schools, and homelessness amid fears about federal funding cuts under President Trump.

De Blasio said his spending plan does not factor in reductions in federal money, which are still widely unknown. Instead, the city has socked away more cash in reserves to prepare for the worst.

The budget, de Blasio’s last before he faces reelection, is up $2.6 billion from the plan the City Council passed last year, and more than 20% bigger than the one adopted the year before de Blasio took office.

But Hizzoner said the city has exercised fiscal caution amid good economic times — with $5.25 billion in total reserves, up from $4.9 billion a year ago. He has also ordered his agencies to come up with $500 million in new cost savings in the coming months.

“We all understand we’re dealing with a great unknown,” de Blasio said as he released his budget for fiscal year 2018 at City Hall.

“The President’s said a lot of things. He’s also changed his mind on a lot of things,” he said. “There’s a huge amount of uncertainty, and a huge amount of moving parts.”

The financial plan contained few flashy new initiatives, but funded new projects to bolster street safety, education and the NYPD.

There’s $317 million for projects in the Vision Zero push to cut traffic deaths — including street redesigns, new lighting, and traffic signal retiming — as well as another $12 million to repaint crosswalks.

The city is also hiring 100 full-time school crossing guard supervisors and 200 part-time crossing guards, at a cost of $5.4 million in the current fiscal year and $6.3 million in 2018.

The NYPD is installing bullet-resistant window inserts in 3,813 cop cars — paying for the plan with $10.4 million in asset forfeiture funds.

There’s $16.4 million to provide faster internet at city public schools, on top of plans for more school seats and summer classes.

As the Daily News first reported, the city is also pledging $1 billion over 10 years to replace roofs at hundreds of NYCHA buildings.

Meanwhile, spending on homelessness has surged — up $70 million in the current fiscal year and $150 million for next year as record numbers of homeless New Yorkers continue to pack shelters.

The city is also spending another $6 million more on outside lawyers, including to represent de Blasio’s administration in several corruption probes, on top of $6.5 million in legal costs added to the budget in November.

With Trump in the White House, budget threats to the city could come from general Republican spending cutbacks, as well as Trump’s threat to defund “sanctuary cities” that shield undocumented immigrants.

De Blasio identified five areas that could be at risk: police, public hospitals, education, environmental protection, and affordable housing.

“I don’t minimize this threat at all,” he said. “But I also think it’s important to recognize each and every one of them is going to be its own fight.”

The city has $1 billion a year in a general reserve fund. The rest of the reserve money is supposed to be for retiree healthcare and capital projects, but could be tapped in an emergency.

“There’s no Trump-specific adjustment in the budget,” de Blasio said. “We don’t know until we see actual budgets and actual proposals where he’s going to end up...We could end up in a very tough situation. But one, we have the highest reserves we’ve ever had. Two, we have an additional savings program moving right now.”

Some pols said the city should be doing more to prepare. “We should save more,” said City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, chair of the finance committee. “There are ways to be more efficient.”

City Controller Scott Stringer did an analysis finding that the city gets $7 billion a year in federal funding. "The uncertainty surrounding future policy decisions by the Trump administration and the Republican Congress presents real risks to our City budget,” he said Tuesday.

Other items pushed for by advocates got no money in the budget. It did not include funding to extend a program started last year to help homeless students, though de Blasio said the program would likely be restored in some form by the time he presents the executive budget this spring.

The mayor balked at paying to offer reduced fare MetroCards to low-income New Yorkers, saying it should be funded by the state, which runs the MTA.

“We can’t afford it,” he said. “I think this is good policy. They should fund it. We’re not in a position to fund it.”

He also did not include money for universal free lunch at schools, which advocates have been pushing for for years.

And the budget did not satisfy Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association president Pat Lynch, a persistent de Blasio critic who wants higher raises for cops.

“The Mayor's budget clearly demonstrates where police officers and public safety rank in his priorities. Apparently, the City can afford $2.6 billion in additional spending for everything under the sun, but not a penny more to pay police officers at a market rate or provide an adequate disability benefit,” he said, calling new funding for NYPD projects “crumbs.”

After a round of Council hearings, de Blasio will present an executive budget in the spring. That will set off another round of negotiations, and the Council must vote on a plan by June.