NYC Council urges $250M boost in reserves in de Blasio's budget
The New York City Council is calling on the de Blasio Administration to raise budget reserves by $250 million as a safeguard against an economic slump.
In its response Tuesday, the council called the mayor’s $92.2 billion Fiscal 2020 Preliminary Budget a fiscally responsible plan that safeguards the city’s financial future and secures its social safety net, Speaker Corey Johnson, Finance Committee Chair Daniel Dromm and Capital Budget Subcommittee Chair Vanessa Gibson also said they have identified almost $1 billion in savings between Fiscal 2019 and Fiscal 2020.
“The recommendations in our budget response highlight our commitment to strengthening the city’s social safety net while maintaining fiscal prudence,” Johnson said. “The budget response points to what this Council’s priorities are, which include investing in our schools, safeguarding our future, promoting budget accountability and protecting New Yorkers.”
The response came after more than 30 committee hearings, where officials from 55 agencies spoke during hundreds of hours of public testimony.
The preliminary budget released was released by Mayor Bill de Blasio in February. It is almost 2% larger than the November financial plan and 3% bigger than the final Fiscal 2019 budget approved last year. Since de Blasio took office in 2014, spending has risen by about 23%. The city also released a preliminary 10-year $104.1 billion capital plan for Fiscal 2020 to 2029.
“The city needs sufficient reserves in case of an economic downturn to avoid service cuts and raising taxes,” the council said in is written response. “In recognition of this, the Council is proposing to boost the city’s reserves by $250 million. Additionally, to avoid losing federal funds, the Council calls for $40 million to ensure the city gets an accurate count on the upcoming 2020 Census.”
At the end of April, the mayor will release his executive budget, a revised plans that takes into account some of the council’s recommendations. The council will then hold a second round of hearings after which it and the mayor will negotiate adjustments. The council by law must vote on a budget by July 1. The last three budgets were all approved well ahead of schedule.
Among the other recommendations the council wants included in the Fiscal 2020 Executive Budget:
- $3.1 billion in capital funds to address NYCHA’s long-term capital needs, prioritizing permanent housing under the Housing New York plan, installation of 50 miles of protected bike lanes and 30 miles of bus lanes per year, and doubling of the Department of Transportation’s pedestrian plaza program.
- An increase in the number of units of appropriations and capital budget lines, a comprehensive capital project tracking system, and a NYC Ferry Budget Report.
- $106 million to increase human services providers’ indirect cost rates, $89 million to increase day care worker salaries, $5 million to support Assistant District Attorneys, and $15 million to increase wages for indigent defense attorneys.
- $200 million for Fair Student funding; $90 million for the redesign and expansion of the Comprehensive After School System, which will double the number of slots from 47,000 to 100,000; $240 million for security cameras in all schools; and $50 million for bathroom renovations.
- $16.5 million for the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project to help New Yorkers facing deportation; $11.7 to improve senior meals and support senior center kitchen staff; $20 million to increase the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene supportive housing; $1 million to expand child care services at CUNY; and $10 million for Fair Futures, a first-in-the-nation long-term support system for foster youth. The Council also calls for a $4.9 million allocation for 57 social workers, one for each of the Department of Homeless Services contracted hotels that house families with children.
- $2.2 million, increase the NYPD Collision Investigation Unit and expand evidence collection teams with $1.2 million in funding, open a community justice center in Far Rockaway and prioritize Department of Homeless Services Peace Officers for Crisis Intervention Training.
“After much hard work, the Council has succeeded in devising a budget response that is both responsible and takes care of New York's neediest,” Dromm said. “Our balanced budget ensures that the major priorities of last year's progressive budget are again included and, in some instances, enhanced in this budget response. While much negotiation must take place until we reach an agreement, I look forward to working with Speaker Johnson to achieve a budget that will serve all New Yorkers.”
Gibson said more work was needed on the capital plan.
“Although we achieved some success in last year’s adopted budget related to capital, the Subcommittee on Capital remains focused on continued improvements to the City’s Capital Commitment Plan,” Gibson said. “We believe that the Commitment Plan must be more transparent and include more descriptive budget lines. In addition, the 10-year Capital Strategy must fully address planned investments and the long-term needs beyond Fiscal 2026 and be reflective of 10 years of true capital planning.”
Moody’s Investors Service rates the city’s general obligation bonds Aa1 while S&P Global Ratings and Fitch Ratings rate them AA. The city has about $38 billion of general obligation debt as of Dec. 31, according to NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer's office.
According to the budget watchdog, the Citizens Budget Commission, at the end of fiscal 2018, total city-supported debt outstanding grew to $119 billion, up 76% since 2005.