Before he leaves, he’ll have to go out with a bang.
Yesterday, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg released his final preliminary budget plan for 2014, worth $70.1 billion — a proposal that will close a $1.1 billion deficit facing the City. In it, we see remnants of this past year’s controversies as well as set foundations for the future, all of which will be placed on the mayoral successor’s ‘To-Do List.’
Naturally, a majority of the $70.1 billion ($50.7 billion, to be exact) will go to the Big Spenders; that includes the cops, firefighters, teachers, pensioners, and healthcare recipients. However, a ton of money doesn’t mean everything is alright for these guys: Mr. Bloomberg’s budget cuts 700 teachers through attrition — an additional 1,800 will come in September — and threatens to close 20 fire companies.
This move harkens back to the reductions demanded by the Mayor last September; instead of tax increases and municipal worker layoffs, the executive agencies are being asked to trim down bureaucracy. So, of course, it can be guaranteed that City Council will not be so happy when this budget reaches their chamber.
But the reductions have a backstory. As mentioned before, the budget summarizes a few losses over the past few months, the first of which was the failure by city officials and the UFT to come to a deal on teacher evaluations. Remember when we said that the loss of at least $300 million in state education funds would lead to disastrous budgetary consequences for everyone?
Well, yeah, that’s where the 700 teacher positions come in. And, yes, you can thank politics.
Hurricane Sandy is a different story. Accounting for emergency response and repairs, the superstorm wrecked a total of $4.5 billion in damages. The Mayor told reporters that the federal government will eventually reimburse the City for the gaping hole but, still, room had to be made in the budget for a catastrophe that’s still affecting thousands in the Tristate Area.
Also, we must take into account that this is an election year for City Hall and we’re already seeing signs that this contention will play a major factor in the executive-legislative dealings over the next few months. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, whose recent cover story in New York Magazine seems to be all the buzz right now, has made it absolutely clear that her chamber will fight the Mayor to the teeth over the teacher reductions and firehouse closings – a redux of everything that’s happened in budget talks the past seven years or so.
The Council has until July 1st to pass a budget. And the Mayor is not worried about a damn thing: “I’ve got 336 days to work as hard as I can. The best days for this city are yet to come.”