The big winners in the city’s 2020 budget
Mayor Bill de Blasio, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and City Council Financial Chair Daniel Dromm announced on Friday that the city has reached an agreement on a $92.8 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2020.
“The budget is balanced, it’s progressive … and it’s early,” de Blasio said. The budget provides $329 million in new savings and an additional $250 million for the city’s reserve fund, bringing that fund to almost $6 billion. Of this, $1.15 billion is in the city’s general reserves, and $4.57 billion is in the employee retirement trust fund.
The mayor said the budget invested in “a fairer city and realistically addressed challenges from the economy and other levels of government.” It guarantees health care to all New Yorkers who don’t have insurance, puts Green New Deal legislation into effect, and increases 3-K slots to 24,000 by 2020.
De Blasio emphasized how smoothly all members of city government worked together on this year’s budget.
“Everyone who pays taxes wants to see people in government work together,” he said. “My goal is to make this the fairest big city in America, and this budget goes a long way toward that,” the mayor-slash-presidential-candidate said.
School, parks and libraries were big winners, Speaker Johnson said.
De Blasio and Johnson (who is exploring a mayoral run) happily posed for a dramatic handshake.
The city plans to make a $33 million investment in libraries, which will help fund early literacy programs and programs for immigrants, and help assure a “fair and accurate census count,” Johnson said. ($19 million of this is baselined, he added.)
The city’s three public library systems — Brooklyn, Queens and New York — had been facing $11 million in cuts. The libraries said in a joint statement last month that they needed an additional $35 million for increased programming and to repair leaking roofs, broken air conditioners and other long-delayed maintenance.
“Together, New York City’s elected leaders are ensuring that when New Yorkers visit their libraries, they will continue to find a home for self-improvement, an engine for civic engagement, and a pillar of inclusion for all,” Brooklyn Public Library President Linda Johnson said in a statement following the announcement.
Libraries are also expected to play a major role in helping people participate in the 2020 Census count, which will be conducted online for the first time.
The city will also be providing $40 million for Census funding, an increase of $14 million, which would assure “a fair and accurate count,” Johnson said.
The budget agreement is also a “huge win for parks” across all five boroughs, Johnson said. Parks equity was a theme this year, with boroughs outside Manhattan getting more support staff and funds to pay for extended pool hours.
“$43 million is a historic investment,” he said. Funds will go toward 300 seasonal park workers, 50 park rangers, 80 park enforcement patrol officers, plus forestry and Green Thumb programs.
The budget also restores $6 billion for schools. The 3-K school program will be expanding to 14 new school districts and will fund 200 school social workers. In addition, 85 more slots will be funded by money diverted from the First Lady’s Thrive NYC mental health program, for a total of 285.
Councilmember Mark Treyger, a former teacher and chair of the Committee on Education, advocated strongly for the increase, the mayor said. The social workers will be directed to schools with the highest need, as indicated by numbers of homeless students and students with disciplinary problems on their records.
The City Council and the mayor also promised to fund salary parity for early childhood education staff at community-based providers.
“We are literally at the negotiating table today,” de Blasio said.
“Achieving true salary parity will not happen overnight, but this announcement is a step towards ensuring equity for all early childhood education staff,” United Neighborhood Houses UNH Executive Director Susan Stamler said in a statement.
The Teachers Choice program, which allows teachers to buy items their classrooms need but that are not funded by the city, will receive $20 million, an average of $200 for out-of-pocket purchases. The budget restores a proposed $6 million cut to the Breakfast in the Classroom program.
Johnson said the city “was close” to announcing that Weeksville Heritage Center in Brooklyn, the pre-Civil War African American settlement, would become a member of the Cultural Institutions Group. Before the speech was over, Councilmember Laurie Cumbo sent out an announcement that the deed was done.
The budget also provides an additional $4.4 million for trash pickup on street corners, bringing funding for this to $8.6 million.
The speaker also announced that the city was in the process of working on a pathway to pay parity for public defenders and other legal advisors; and was working on getting an adjustment on reimbursement for social service providers.
Last year’s budget was $89.2 billion. The council must still officially pass the budget before the fiscal year begins in July.
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