With little guarantee that the city will get the funding needed to close a $9 billion deficit, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson now says the de Blasio administration is not doing enough to find savings in the city’s financial plan.
Johnson is calling on the administration to identify cuts of at least 5 to 7 percent across all agencies, saying the mayor’s first round of cuts do not go far enough.
“We must search agency budgets for more savings to ensure that we have done everything we can to balance the budget without resorting to borrowing that will have significant long-term implications for New York City’s future,” Johnson wrote in the letter, which was also signed by Finance Chair Committee Danny Dromm and Capital Subcommittee Chair Vanessa Gibson.
The city is facing a massive $9 billion deficit, attributable to a drop in tax revenue related to the coronavirus health crisis.
Since the pandemic hit the city in March, the government has spent more than $700 million to fight the virus, and the administration estimates more than $3.5 billion could be spent by the end of the year.
De Blasio proposed an $89.3 billion financial plan last month. The plan includes $2.7 billion in cuts to services over the next two fiscal years.
But the City Council has repeatedly said that while the cuts will impact vital services, such as education and programs for city youth, they don’t go far enough.
The city’s financial picture is also complicated by the uncertainty of federal aid.
For weeks, de Blasio has been pleading with the federal government and the Trump administration to ensure the city gets a financial bailout package that could help close the financial gap. That funding, however, is not guaranteed, and with the coronavirus still ravaging the country, it’s unclear how much funding would go to New York, despite it being the epicenter of the crisis.
“With the knowledge that federal stimulus money may not arrive before we adopt a budget in June, that the State may impose additional cuts, and that there are significant programs and services that were funded on a one-year basis, means that the City must renew our focus on agency savings,” Johnson wrote in the letter.
For weeks, members of the Council have suggested the administration should consider trimming agencies that typically escape deep budget cuts, specifically the NYPD and the Department of Correction.
In the letter, Johnson is critical of the de Blasio administration, saying it was willing to cut 32 percent of the budget for the Department of Youth and Community Development, yet is proposing a less than 1 percent cut to the NYPD.
Budget watchdogs agree the de Blasio administration should be doing more to find savings within the existing budget, but acknowledge such cuts would result in wage and hiring freezes, as well as the elimination of some municipal workers and the reworking of labor benefits – items that would prove politically unpopular.
The mayor has also refused to say if he’d be willing to cut his own salary or the salaries of some of his highest-ranking cabinet members.
“We’ve lost billions of dollars in tax revenue due to the pandemic,” said Laura Feyer, a spokeswoman for Mayor de Blasio. “In the face of these dire circumstances, our priorities are clear: saving lives, protecting the health and safety of New Yorkers, and making sure everyone has a roof over their head and enough food to eat. The federal government must step up and pass a stimulus for cities and states across the nation, or we face further cuts that jeopardize our recovery.”
A final budget agreement is due at the end of June.