By Matthew Taub
Special to Brooklyn Daily Eagle from Brooklyn Brief
Update: the budget has now officially been passed.
Council Member Stephen Levin called it a “symbol of a new progressive era” in New York. “It reflects our values, our priorities, and our goals as a City,” Levin said. “From providing funding for free lunches for middle school students, to restoring low-income child care vouchers, to creating a new initiative that aims to improve early childhood literacy and more, we have accomplished a lot with this document.”
The mayor agreed. “This budget invests in our city’s future and begins to address inequality, all while strengthening our long-term fiscal health. From education and safety, to affordable housing and infrastructure, we’ve delivered real results for New Yorkers across the five boroughs,” Mayor de Blasio said.
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The Mayor and City Council have agreed on a $75 billion budget that moves forward key initiatives that aim to address income inequality while strengthening the City’s fiscal health. Roughly $100 million in new expenditures will fund a variety of programs, but a tax increase will not be necessary, the administration claims.
“We’ve found areas to save money. We’ve found some natural savings,” Mayor de Blasio said. “We’ve found some savings by choice. And that allowed us to have a little more freedom on some of the other priorities we had.”
As announced in the Mayor’s Fiscal Year 2015 Executive Budget, the budget agreement provides:
- $19 million for a comprehensive, citywide plan to reduce violent crime in NYCHA developments by increasing community engagement efforts and expanding neighborhood watch and domestic violence outreach teams—while providing key services to residents, including employment and benefits assistance, recreation, and mentorship;
- $32.5 million to provide increased programming and enhanced services to inmates with mental illness and reduce violence at Rikers Island Correctional Facilities;
- $6.2 million to hire 200 Police Administrative aides, allowing for an increase in the number of uniformed police officers on the streets to keep New Yorkers safe;
- $6.25 million to provide free school lunch to all middle schoolers starting this September
- $17 million to keep 57 NYCHA community and senior centers open;
- $17.5 million for summer out-of-school time slots that will provide 10,700 summer youth jobs; and
- $10 million to create additional child care vouchers for low-income families to ensure parents have access to quality child care.
“This is one of the earliest agreements in recent history” the Mayor added. He went on to hail it as “a budget agreement is where rhetoric meets the road.”
The agreement, if approved, would mark the ninth consecutive on-time budget.
Key budget monitors and investors have validated the prudent way in which this administration has handled its first budget, which keeps out-year gaps and debt service at management levels that are well below historical averages. Earlier this month, all three major rating agencies affirmed the City’s strong, stable ratings, highlighting the City’s “highly effective budget management.” Last week, the City finished its first major bond sale since the labor agreement and executive budget; the sale increased in size from the planned $850 million to over $1 billion, reflecting extremely strong demand, while the City secured low interest rates that resulted in significant savings.
The agreement also:
- Delivers universal, full-day pre-K for all 4-year-olds and an expansion of after-school and summer enrichment programs for middle school students;
- Provides investments to prevent and reduce homelessness;
- Funds the Mayor’s plan to build or preserve 200,000 affordable units over 10 years;
- Reduces arbitrary and punitive fines on small businesses; and
- Invests in the Mayor’s “Vision Zero” initiative to reduce pedestrian traffic deaths to zero.