By Katie Honan, The CITY
The New York City Council and Mayor Eric Adams agreed Thursday to a budget of more than $107 billion that spares proposed library cuts and adds billions for affordable housing, but leaves some programs for incarcerated people on the cutting-room floor as the city continues to rein in spending.
The handshake on the $107 billion spending plan came just a day before the June 30 deadline marking the end of fiscal year 2023.
Negotiations went down to the wire, and some issues — like additional funding for the City University of New York (CUNY) system and cost-of-living adjustments for nonprofit workers — were still being discussed in the moments before the handshake that customarily symbolizes a budget pact, according to a City Council source.
Despite reaching a deal, both Mayor Adams and Council Speaker Adrienne Adams said it was still “bittersweet” as the city continues to feel the strain of the influx of asylum-seekers while emerging from the pandemic.
“We’re passing a budget, it’s a necessary budget, and we got some fantastic wins for the people of this city,” Speaker Adams said. “But some were left out. We don’t want to skirt around this issue, we don’t want to hide this issue.”
The mayor said the city so far spent $1.4 billion to care for more than 81,000 asylum-seekers — money that he said could have gone to various programs and concerns.
“Our mission is not to simply save money, it is to set priorities — priorities that include fair labor contracts for our unions and support for New Yorkers in our greatest need,” Mayor Adams said.
Many of the most high-profile proposed cuts, like those to libraries, were restored. But there were other reductions amidst rolling cuts to agencies throughout this past fiscal year — and the money woes could continue for years.
Budget Director Jacques Jiha projected the future budget gaps will grow to $5.1 billion in fiscal year 2025, $6.8 billion in fiscal year 2026, and $7.9 billion by fiscal year 2027.
Comptroller Brad Lander urged the Council and the mayor to save more and prepare for upcoming challenges.
“This budget fails to add to rainy day funds and they remain far from our recommended 16% of tax revenues that can weather the length of an average recession without major service disruptions,” Lander said in a statement.
Citizens Budget Commission President Andrew Rein also criticized the lack of savings in the budget.
“It is essentially a one-year budget that again unfortunately delays the wise but hard choices needed to stabilize the City’s fiscal future,” Rein said in a statement.
“With the coffers temporarily bulging, the budget increases fiscal cliffs, widens future budget gaps, and misses the opportunity to deposit money into the rainy day fund.”
Here’s a look at some of the cuts and restored cuts in next year’s budget based on preliminary information on the deal, which will be fully documented in the coming days.
Housing: The budget allocates $2.5 billion to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development and $1.5 billion to the New York City Housing Authority to help create more affordable housing.
That includes restoring $32.9 million to NYCHA’s Vacant Unit Readiness Program, which speeds up the repair of vacant apartments to rent to new tenants. This program initially had been cut in the executive budget.
Education: The budget includes $32.4 million in CUNY funding which was not included initially.
This funding includes things like the Accelerated Study in Associate Programs which assist students receiving two-year degrees, and CUNY Reconnect, which assists adults attending college for the first time or finishing their degrees.
Culture: The leaders of the city’s three public library systems thanked city leaders for restoring $36.2 million in proposed cuts, which would have reduced hours and services at hundreds of libraries.
“This is true and responsive civic leadership, and we look forward to continuing to work with the Mayor and the Council to address some of the most pressing challenges facing our city, including assisting asylum-seekers, supporting teens, preparing people for the workforce, and helping kids recover from pandemic learning loss,” the heads of the Brooklyn, Queens and New York public libraries wrote in a joint statement.
The budget also restores $40 million for other cultural institutions, including museums and nonprofit organizations.
Public Safety: The Adams administration refused to negotiate with Council members who had sought to restore $17 million from five social service providers in city lockups, according to a Council source involved in budget talks.
Department of Correction Commissioner Louis Molina has said his agency can provide the same programs in-house. But jail advocates and multiple city lawmakers have questioned how that will happen.
They pointed out during a budget hearing in May that the department lacked enough staff to make it happen.
The cuts come as other jail systems throughout the country seek to boost their programs for incarcerated people. The Fortune Society and Osborne Association have run multiple educational courses on Rikers Island and at other city jails dating as far back as the Giuliani administration.
“I’m shocked and appalled,” said JoAnne Page, president and CEO of the Fortune Society. “It’s so damaging.”
Mayor Adams defended the cut Thursday, saying he spoke with Molina, who said the programs could be done by Department of Correction employees.
“I just think it’s the wrong thing to do to have city employees and then have a whole host of consultants,” the mayor said. “I think it’s an insult to city employees.”
Page and others have noted nonprofit staffers are paid less, and some of them are formerly incarcerated.
“It doesn’t make economic or correctional management sense,” she said.
Trash: The Department of Sanitation had $22 million tossed back into its budget for litter basket collection. There’s also $6.9 million in funding for highway cleaning.
What Else: Nonprofit employees who work for agencies that provide services to the city — including organizations that run homeless shelters and senior centers — will see a cost-of-living adjustment to their salaries, totaling $100 million in the next fiscal year and an additional $50 million the year after that.
An umbrella group representing nonprofits in the city said that wasn’t nearly enough to keep pace with rising inflation.
The Human Services Council sought a 6.5% percent cost-of-living adjustment and a multi-year increase of 16.5% to match the number of recently announced public sector union deals.
“This budget is not good, and it is not just,” said Human Services Council Executive Director Michelle Jackson. “Almost two-thirds of our workforce lives near poverty, and this agreement will not fundamentally change that — even though the Mayor found plenty of money to give generous raises to other workers.”
The budget also includes a total increase of $46 million for legal service providers. That includes right-to-counsel, with $30 million to be added to the budget annually on a permanent basis.
The city’s Fair Fares program, which provides half-priced MetroCards to city residents living under the poverty line, has received an additional $20 million in the budget to bring its total to $95 million.
Nearly 292,000 New Yorkers have signed up for the program, according to the city’s Human Resources Administration, though MTA officials have repeatedly said they want to increase enrollment.
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