Mayor’s Budget Hits Libraries, Parks, Early Education
By MIKE LEE
Claiming “fiscal discipline (as) the hallmark of this administration,” New York City Mayor Eric Adams unveiled a proposed $102.7 billion Executive Budget for fiscal year 2024 on Jan. 12.
The mayor included costs of the ongoing migrant crisis, paying for health care, an end to federal stimulus funding, and pending labor agreements as reasons for the draconian cuts in certain essential city services.
Mayor Adams pointed to a claimed budget deficit from his November 2022 Financial Plan that could reach as high as $6.5 billion by fiscal year 2027.
Among the first targets for cuts are New York City’s three library systems, which are the backbone of the city’s cultural heritage.
In the Mayor’s budget modification, the libraries were asked to find a 3% savings. As a result, the New York Public Library, Brooklyn Public Library, and Queens Public Library were able to preserve services without impacting the public.
However, further reductions in the proposed Executive Budget mean cutting back critical services such as ESL classes and other public programs. The proposed budget cut may reduce library hours and materials, as well as reduce staff hiring.
DC 37 and library advocates led the fight several years ago to increase public access to the City’s libraries, including seven-day service.
Among the cuts Adams said are his “responsibility to keep our city on a stable path,” funding for 3-K for All was reduced by $567 million. The program was slated to expand universally this year, but the mayor delayed the decision.
Referring to a $100 million hole in funding the program, New York City Schools Chancellor David Banks said, “We’ve got major issues that we’re going to have to deal with financially in terms of paying for that, as well as other programs.”
This coincides with problems faced by the City’s Early Childhood Program, which after a vigorous campaign by DC 37, resulted in a stabilization plan to address late payments to child care providers (see Oct.-Dec. 2022 PEP talk, page 7).
The Executive Budget also slices $46 million from the Parks Department, which raises fears of eliminating open positions and potential layoffs of Parks workers, further reducing needed maintenance and vital programs for valuable public green spaces, as well as increasing safety concerns within parks.
“The Mayor’s proposal, which cuts dozens of NYC Parks staff positions, does not reflect the level of investment to which he has committed, and it’s not enough to maintain the world-class parks system New Yorkers deserve,” said Adam Ganser, Executive Director of New Yorkers for Parks. “This is not the time to cut any positions for Parks. It’s so difficult to get those positions back.”
District Council 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido questioned Adams’ justification of budget cuts based on claims of projected deficits.
“Every year that I’ve been here, even before I was head of DC 37, it’s been anticipated the City would end with a deficit,” Garrido said.
For several years, Garrido researched cost savings, exposed wasteful spending by previous mayoral administrations, and authored several white papers on the subject. He said he is confident that increased tax forecasts and additional income streams will leave New York City, as in previous years, with a surplus, thus preventing these proposed cuts.
As a symbolic protest against the mayor’s announcement of additional cuts, New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams refused to hold a City Council vote on the November 2022 budget changes.
As PEPtalk goes to press, the City Council is preparing its budget response and scheduling hearings in March, the first stage in the negotiation process with the Adams Administration. In the meantime, DC 37 is preparing for the fight ahead.
By law, the City Council and Mayor Adams have a deadline of June 30 to agree on the FY 2024 budget.