New York City gets mixed marks for its adopted fiscal 2018 budget, said the watchdog Citizens Budget Commission.
Nonpartisan CBC praised the city for using increased savings and revenues to boost the general reserve and the retiree health benefits trust. Yet despite the enactment of what Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration called a partial hiring freeze, spending and headcount continue to rise, said the commission.
The partial freeze "is really more of a hiring review for some positions," wrote CBC policy analyst Ana Champeny.
De Blasio last week signed the $87.3 billion spending plan, adjusted for prepayments and reserves, after the 51-member City Council approved it. Spending will rise 3.4% over the projected $84.5 billion fiscal 2017 budget.
A $442 million increase in the surplus roll, $340 million in additional revenue and $103 million in citywide savings are funding additional spending for fiscal 2018.
Champeny said that with health insurance costs projected to spike, the next round of labor negotiations should build on the savings generated from the city’s partnership with the Municipal Labor Committee, an umbrella organization that represents the city's major unions.
"Health insurance contributions from employees and retirees should be on the table during negotiations," she wrote.
The city pays 100% of health insurance premium for most workers. By contrast, New York State pays about 86% of premiums for individuals and 71% for families. Average employer shares are lower in the private sector.
"Given uncertainty in Washington, D.C. and in the local economy, the city should limit new spending and achieve more savings, tax reductions, and reserves," said Champeny, who called on agencies to implement efficiencies.