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    Wednesday, February 21, 2024

    'Painful' NYC budget cuts: No new police officers, cuts in trash collection

    New York Mayor Eric Adams, accompanied by Ingrid Lewis-Martin, his chief adviser, responds to questions during a news conference at New York's City Hall, Nov. 14, 2023. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

    New York City will hold off on hiring new police officers, reduce trash pickups, make cuts to the city's pre-kindergarten programs and lower spending on services for migrants to slash the city's $110.5 billion budget.

    The 5% reduction will affect services for many New Yorkers and effectively trim the city's police force to its smallest size since the 1990s by summer 2025, city budget officials said.

    They are just some of the savings ideas that Mayor Eric Adams and Budget Director Jacques Jiha revealed on Thursday as the city faces what the mayor's office described as "unprecedented" future budget deficits.

    New York's budget has swelled by more than $3.4 billion since June, when Adams signed the current spending plan. City budget officials on Thursday blamed the growth on soaring costs related to the migrant crisis. Roughly 143,000 migrants have arrived in New York since the spring of 2022, and more than 65,600 are currently in the city's shelters.

    "Every city agency dug into their own budget to find savings, with minimal disruption to services," Adams said in a statement. "And while we pulled it off this time, make no mistake: Migrant costs are going up, tax revenue growth is slowing, and COVID stimulus funding is drying up."

    Adams warned in September that he would have to slash 15% from the city's budget between this month and April 2024. The mayor says cuts are necessary to pay for not only the extraordinary costs of caring for the migrants, but also the new labor contracts for the unionized workforce.

    Earlier this week, Adams described the cuts as "extremely, personally painful for this administration" and said, "It's going to hurt a lot."

    For months, Adams and other city officials have publicly criticized the Biden administration for what they said was its failure to provide financial and logistical support to the city to manage the migrant crisis.

    The cuts "are a direct result of the lack of financial support from Washington, D.C., which is derelict in its responsibility to institute a national plan to mitigate a national crisis and has instead elected to dump its job to handle this migrant crisis upon the lap of a municipality and its mayor," Adams's chief adviser, Ingrid Lewis-Martin, said in a statement.

    City officials said they planned to cut the next five classes of new police hires, bringing the city's total number of uniformed officers to roughly 29,000 by the end of fiscal year 2025, which would be the smallest force since the mid-1990s.

    The city also plans to cut seven-day service at all Manhattan and Brooklyn branches of the New York Public Library system, along with service at two Queens branch library locations.

    Union Criticism

    Budget officials said they planned to cut nearly $600 million from the city's education budget this year, and similar amounts in the next two years, trimming employees' fringe benefits, cutting community schools and the city's popular 3K and universal pre-kindergarten programs, which have some 37,000 vacant seats.

    The cuts were assailed by Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, the city's teachers union.

    "These are unnecessary budget cuts to our public schools," Mulgrew said in a statement. "They are driven by City Hall's false political narrative that New York City is about to fall off a fiscal cliff."

    The city is currently facing significant multiyear deficits - the projected budget gap for the fiscal year that begins in July 2024 has grown by $2 billion since Adams signed the current budget last summer to $7.1 billion. And the city now anticipates gaps of $6.5 billion and $6.4 billion for the 2026 and 2027 fiscal years, respectively.

    In August, state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli said the city's own projections were likely too conservative, and estimated the city's combined deficits will reach $40 billion through 2027 because of rising costs for migrant care and shelter for the city's homeless residents.

    Safety Agents

    Adams is also planning to cut a new class of 250 school safety agents. The city will have to rely in part on "parents and parent volunteerism" to help keep New York City schoolchildren safe, Adams said at a press conference earlier this week. "But we are going to be straining at a very high level to get this done correctly," he said.

    The reductions announced Thursday mark the fourth time Adams has asked city agencies to propose spending cuts since he took office in January 2022.

    The moves by Adams have raised eyebrows among fiscal watchdogs and City Council members who've questioned whether the city is spending its money wisely. The administration is spending an average of $394 per day, per household, to house and care for each migrant, more than double the amount spent on families in the city's regular homeless shelter system, raising questions about whether the city is effectively negotiating with vendors and seeking out economies of scale.

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