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Harsh state budget sets stage for city funding battles
Mayor still calling for layoffs, while Silver cites other options
by Maisie McAdoo | April 14, 2011 New York Teacher issue
City schools will get a total funding cut of $510 million next year under the most austere state budget in more than a decade.
The cut is the third to education in as many years, as the national recession’s aftermath continues to pressure state budgets around the country.
Just what the state budget cuts mean for New York City remained in sharp dispute.
Mayor Bloomberg called the state budget an “outrage” and continued to threaten massive teacher layoffs. State Assembly leader Sheldon Silver termed it “fair” to New York City and said layoffs were unnecessary because the city has “rainy day” reserves that could offset the cut.
“It’s raining in New York,” Silver said. “It’s been raining now for two years and whatever you have put aside, now is the time to use it.”
Silver also said he would try to introduce separate legislation to extend a tax surcharge on the wealthiest New Yorkers that is due to expire on Dec. 31.
Legislators failed to include the millionaire’s tax in the final budget, despite intensive appeals by unions and community groups. If the tax is allowed to expire, it will wipe out $1 billion in badly needed revenue for this year’s budget and almost $5 billion for next year.
Bloomberg insisted that the only way to manage the cut is with 4,700 teacher pink slips and “more cuts to services.” City schools have already weathered nine rounds of belt-tightening.
UFT President Michael Mulgrew criticized the mayor’s stance.
“While we wish Albany could have done more, the mayor could have helped add $5 billion to the budget by backing an extension of the millionaire’s tax, but he refused to do so,” Mulgrew said. “Given the city’s continuing multi-billion-dollar surplus, as the governor and his staff have said repeatedly, no teacher layoffs are necessary.”
The city has a $3 billion surplus in the current-year budget. Stronger-than-expected tax receipts have added about $2.1 billion to next year’s coffers.
The hard-times state budget, which closes a $10 billion gap for the fiscal year that began on April 1, was passed on time for the first time in five years.
One piece of good news was the inclusion of $20.4 million statewide for Teacher Centers for the coming school year.
The $132.5 billion budget deal also made partial restorations including $53 million to city schools, $22.4 million to keep city senior centers open, $15 million to fund homeless programs, and $36 million to SUNY and CUNY.
The action now swings to the City Council, which will have to amend and pass the mayor’s preliminary budget plan for the city, incorporating the state’s final numbers. Its deadline is July 1.
Already, Council members have publicly questioned the planned heavy spending on central office administrators and outside consultants by the Department of Education and warned that class sizes cannot be allowed to rise.
“The children of New York City are too important to be pawns in Bloomberg’s political games,” Mulgrew said.