As critics have suggested, balancing the budget should not be done at the expense of city workers. Right now the city needs to create jobs, not kill them off.
The plan, unveiled by Mayor Michael Bloomberg last week, calls for a $1.6 billion cut in spending over the next 18 months to reduce the budget gap to $2.4 billion by the end of Fiscal Year 2012.
If the mayor’s proposal is approved, everyone would feel the pain; 10,000 city jobs would be eliminated, over 6,000 of them through layoffs.
Thousands of teachers would lose their jobs, as well as sanitation workers, security guards, corrections officers and staff at the Administration for Children’s Services.
As a result of the layoffs, basic services would decline.
Potholes - 9,000 of them - would not be filled due to cuts in staff and funding to the Department of Transportation. (A potential windfall for mechanics across the city.)
Library hours would decrease.
Twenty fire companies would close over night, this after the mayor and the City Council reached an agreement to restore funding for the Fire Department earlier this year.
Officials who worked on that deal are upset.
They should be, because it’s unacceptable. Even during an economic downturn, fire and police services should be untouchable. These are life-saving services, and we need them. Period.
Another critical area is education. Under the plan, the Department of Education would lose $350 million in funding.
Education reformers are already worried over the prospects of a department headed by corporate executive Cathie Black, the mayor’s choice to replace Joel Klein as Schools Chancellor. How could she possibly succeed with less money?
The worst part is, even if all these cuts go through they represent the tip of the iceberg: the city estimates a budget deficit of $5.6 billion for Fiscal Year 2014.
It is true that the city is losing state and federal stimulus funding, but the mayor knew this was coming; the stimulus package was intended as a short-term fix to avert another Great Depression. It was not designed for the purpose of helping states and municipalities dig themselves out of long-term debt.
Last year, Bloomberg assured us he would lead New York through tough economic times; that’s why we gave him a third term in office. Now it’s time to make good on that promise.
Instead of balancing the budget by kicking the debt can down the road, he must find creative new ways to generate revenue in the next several years, and avoid cutting services and jobs when we can least afford to.