Bloomberg’s Proposed Budget: No Tax Hike, But Teachers Ravaged
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Mayor Michael Bloomberg is not raising taxes, but his new budget seeks to squeeze every penny possible from New Yorkers, as he cuts corners in agency after agency.
Some of the cuts may surprise you, reports CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer.
Marie Antoinette may have gone down in history for saying “let them eat cake,” Mayor Bloomberg will be known for saying “no pudding for you.”
“We have increased expenses at the very time our revenues have declined,” Bloomberg said Friday.
While the mayor is proposing some huge cuts, public school children stand to lose 1 out of every 12 teachers. Cuts in Washington and Albany have made no belt tightening idea too small to escape the mayor’s attention.
So he plans to save $350 million by cutting “non-essential” food items for prisoners at Rikers Island — and that includes, ice cream, ketchup, mustard, salt and pepper, pudding and fewer servings of bread.
“The city just can’t make up for everything,” Bloomberg said.
The city will also go after drivers by hiking parking meter rates in all five boroughs, which will raise more than $20 million, and it will collect another $5 million from installing 20 more red-light cameras.
But one of the most controversial moves is the plan to close 20 more fire companies. Bloomberg was unapologetic on Friday.
“The city will never be as safe as it would be if you had a fire house on every block,” Bloomberg said.
But FDNY Commissioner Sal Cassano is reluctant.
“I don’t want to do it,” Cassano said.
The commissioner predicted that if the mayor doesn’t relent, response times to fires will rise.
“Response times go up, it takes is longer to get to fires,” Cassano said. “But if it’s 20 the whole city will be impacted.”
“We need fire houses where there’s fires. We can’t have fire trucks driving across city to get to fires,” one New Yorker told Kramer.
“I’d rather be safe than sorry,” another person added.
Kramer has already reported that among the fire companies expected to be on death row are Ladder 53 on City Island, and Engines 271 in Bushwick, 161 on Staten Island and 4 at the South Street Seaport.
City officials won’t make the rest of the list public until the middle of May, reportedly to minimize public outrage.
As for the teacher cuts, Bloomberg wants to be known as the “education mayor,” but the city’s budget problems are forcing him to slash nearly 6,000 teachers, devastation so brutal the mayor called it “carnage.”
So, who will go?
“The newer teachers who’ve been willing to go to those schools with the greatest pedagogical problems, which are typically poor neighborhoods – that’s where the greatest carnage would be and it would be in the elementary school level,” Bloomberg said.
The mayor blamed the need to eliminate teaching jobs on Washington and Albany, which have drastically cut back aid to city schools. Education commissioner Dennis Walcott said the city has already tried to make up the lost money.
“The mayor’s put in $2 billion to the Department of Education to make up for the loss of state and federal funding,” Walcott said.
WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb With Comment From Mayor Bloomberg And Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott
The big question is how the cuts will affect class size. Kramer pressed the commissioner about how many more students each teacher would have in his or her classroom.
“We’re looking at potentially an average of two, but it depends on the grade as well. You could see an increase of two students, maybe in some cases even three students,” Walcott said.
As for total numbers of students in each class, Walcott said, “It depends on the grade so the grade varies. It could be 24, 25 to a high of 28 in different grades.”
Union officials said that’s the wrong move, especially since the city has always tried to keep class sizes low in the early grades.
“We used to have a program in New York City that kept the class size in those grades below 25. Next year they will be at 28,” United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said. “The reason we had it at 25 was everyone understood the educational importance of allowing teachers to do more one on one work with a student.”
“There has been so much research in recent years showing that class size is one of the most important determinants of a kid’s success later in life, especially in kindergarten,” added Leonie Haimson of the group Class Size Matters.
Parents and teachers hope the City Council can negotiate a reprieve, but the mayor said Friday he doesn’t see any way to save all of the 6,000 spots.
1010 WINS’ Stan Brooks reports: Bloomberg Says The Decisions Were Forced On Him
The mayor said despite the cuts, mandated programs and pensions are sinking the city’s financial ship.
“Next year we will pay 8.3 billion for pension costs. Up from 1.2 billion in 2002. That is a seven billion dollar increase in ten years,” he said.
The mayor admitted in his speech that he expected criticism. The teachers’ union promptly complied.
“Same smoke, same mirrors, same attempt to blame others for his decision to lay off thousands of teachers, despite increased state aid, hundreds of millions in new revenues and a surplus that has grown to more than $3.2 billion,” Mulgrew said in a statement.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Finance Chair Domenic Recchia Jr. said in a statement that they have “grave concerns” about teacher layoffs and would recommend alternative cuts to those proposed by the mayor. Bloomberg and the council must agree on a balanced budget by June.
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer also worries about the future.
“I think we may be going back to a day, back in the 1970s when we didn’t have a sense that this government was working for the people in the city,” Stringer said.
He dismisses the mayor’s spending plan as a “political document.”
The 2012 budget also calls for a 10 percent reduction in the city’s 10-year capital construction projects.
What do you think of the budget? Sound off below…