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Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito Seeks Extra $5 Million For NYC Council

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The New York City Council apparently wants to go on a spending spree — on itself.

Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito is seeking a whopping 10 percent increase in the council’s operations budget, CBS 2’s Tony Aiello reported.

“This is an investment in better governance,” Mark-Viverito said. “This is an investment in members being able to do more work for their constituents.”

The move would be a departure from the belt tightening the City Council did over the past eight years. Under previous Speaker Christine Quinn, the budget stayed relatively flat and the head count of employees dropped. In 2006, the council spent $49 million for 316 staffers. In 2013, it spent $51 million for 281 workers.

Mark-Viverito is asking for an additional $5 million, up to $56 million. She said the extra money won’t increase council members’ pay, but it will allow them to hire more staff to research and write legislation, increase oversight of city operations and improve constituent services in the 51 district offices.

In Brooklyn, residents Aiello spoke with had a decidedly mixed reaction.

“I don’t think the money’s justified at all,” said Tennille Ray, of East New York. “We have disgusting streets. We have neighborhoods that need more improvement. The money should go there.”

“It could be a good thing,” said Thomas George, of Brooklyn Heights.

“On the surface, it sounds good,” added Angela Vance, of Brooklyn Heights.

Joseph Harney, of Cobble Hill, said the budget increase was excessive.

“I’m really at a loss for words,” he said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said he respects the council’s request, but he stopped short of saying whether he would support it during the budget process.

“That process is far from concluded,” he said. “A lot of decisions that have to be made.”

But when it comes to the budget, the City Council has the final word. The mayor has no power to veto whatever the council decides to spend on itself.

The proposed $56 million budget would mean New York City is spending $1.09 million per council member and $6.71 per resident. By comparison, Los Angeles spends $1.06 million per council member, but just $4.19 per resident. Chicago spends only $520,000 per council member, but $9.50 per resident.

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