5 Takeaways From New York City’s $93 Billion Budget Deal – The New York Times

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Five years ago, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the parameters of his first New York City budget, weighing in at $75 billion.

With each successive budget, Mr. de Blasio and City Council leaders have spent more taxpayer money, hiring more workers and increasing city services, and this year is no different: The budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year, which begins July 1, weighs in at $92.8 billion.

The budget deal, announced on Friday by Mr. de Blasio and the City Council speaker, Corey Johnson, comes despite warnings by the mayor this year about an unexpected drop in city revenue from personal income tax collections because of last year’s steep slide in the stock market, which has since rebounded.

The budget includes increased spending for lots of programs important to Mr. de Blasio and the Council. That includes an additional 200 social workers to work in city schools, focusing on schools with a large number of students living in temporary housing, such as homeless shelters or with relatives.

Some of the social workers will also be stationed in middle schools, where they will concentrate on mental health issues. The cost is set at $26 million.

The city is allocating $40 million for a program to increase participation in next year’s federal census. The Sanitation Department will get more than $8.6 million for additional services, including extra litter baskets and trash pickup throughout the five boroughs.

There is an additional $10 million to provide meals for needy seniors, $1 million to remove tree stumps and $640,000 to provide translation services at polling places. There is also additional funding for street paving, library services and parks.

A program to install a new type of siren on some Fire Department vehicles which is aimed at reducing noise pollution — known as a rumbler siren — will cost $1.5 million.

A Council initiative also led to $250,000 dedicated to funding abortion services through the New York Abortion Access Fund, an allocation that is believed to be the first time that a city will use money specifically for abortions.

The mayor and Mr. Johnson like to talk about all the “savings” that are in the budget. But they cut items here and there or point to the benefit of lower debt payments, they add far more than they remove, which is why the budget continues to defy gravity.

“The risks are still there,” Mr. de Blasio said Friday during a news conference with Mr. Johnson in the City Hall rotunda. “This is why we’ve added to reserves and why we’ve deepened our savings programs. The things that we are investing in either, in some cases, are sheer need, things we must address for a variety of reasons or things that we think are the kinds of investments that make sense for this city and are manageable and affordable.”

The mayor said the city had sufficient reserves so that “if there were an economic downturn, something we all have to be ready for, we have ways to immediately respond because of what we have in place.”

Mr. Johnson pointed out that spending growth was fed by increases in revenues, and added that personal income tax collections this year were higher than expected.

But Andrew Rein, the president of the Citizens Budget Commission, a nonpartisan fiscal monitor, said that while they were some “prudent actions” in the budget, the city’s strong economy and the increased revenue that derives from it represented a “missed opportunity.”

“What they should be doing with the additional revenues and a lot of this growth is putting it in reserves,” Mr. Rein said. The commission estimates that a recession would reduce revenues by as much as $20 billion over three years, a number that dwarfs the city’s reserves.

Council members have been pushing for funds to address a serious pay parity issue involving early childhood education staff.

Teachers and other staff working for city schools make far more than those who work for independent organizations, which provide similar services under contract with the city. That has made it hard for those organizations to find and retain qualified workers.

Mr. Johnson and Mr. de Blasio said on Friday only that they had agreed to try to resolve the issue and that they expected to reach a resolution this year.

Similarly, Legal Aid lawyers have been seeking pay parity with city prosecutors; Mr. de Blasio said he expected to have a “pathway to resolution in the course of this year.”

“People I talk to respect the fact this is a very big operation,” said Mr. de Blasio, who is running a long-shot campaign to win the Democratic nomination for president. He pointed out that New York City has the fourth largest government budget in the country, after the federal government, California and New York State. He said the city budget provided for the police and fire departments and other city agencies, which he called the best in the country.

“People are certainly awed by the dollar figure but it’s very easy to explain to them what we get for it and how it allows us to run this place the way it is run, and there’s a tremendous respect for New York out there and what’s achieved here every day.”

The short answer: New Hampshire, where he will be campaigning over the weekend.

Later this month, he will be on the stage in the first Democratic presidential primary debate, on June 26, with nine other candidates, including Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey.

Friday’s handshake agreement with the Council allows Mr. de Blasio to get on with the business of campaigning and debate preparation, without having to worry about nailing down further budget details.

The mayor tried to frame the budget discussion in ways that seemed aimed at Democratic primary voters far from New York City, echoing the national debate over universal health care and highlighting what he refers to as a city version of the Green New Deal, appropriating the language of other progressive Democrats like Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.