City Budget Proposal Includes Pink-Slip Pain for Some Workers, but No Cuts to City Schools, FDNY Companies

NY Daily News - November 19, 2011

by Ben Chapman, Erin Einhorn & Tina Moore NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Departments of Sanitation, Health and Mental Hygiene and Cultural Affairs will be hit

Mayor Bloomberg wants to slash more than 250 city jobs by the end of June 2012 and then lose nearly 1,500 more positions through layoffs and attrition by the same time the following fiscal year.

Bloomberg plans to cut funding for jobs in two city departments: Health and Mental Hygiene and Cultural Affairs, a budget proposal released Friday shows.

And the city is also proposing to bring the budget axe down on the Department of Sanitation in 2013 -- shedding 254 union slots and another 50 civilian positions through attrition.

"Even with a billion dollars in new taxi-medallion revenue and the savings items released today, we still need to fill a $2-billion hole, and the national economic picture remains volatile and highly uncertain," Bloomberg spokesman Marc LaVorgna said.

The proposed Sanitation cuts are particularly troublesome given the post-Christmas blizzard that crippled the city last year, said City Councilman Domenic Recchia, chair of the council's committee on finance.

"The economy will hopefully start to turn around and we will not have to make those cuts to Sanitation," Recchia said. "Making those radical cuts to Sanitation would concern me a great deal."

Seventy city library jobs are also on the chopping block, the budget documents show.

At the Department of Cultural Affairs, the administration is not looking to issue pink slips, but rather cut funding for 109 jobs. Administrators at libraries, museums, zoos and other institutions, where the cuts are proposed to be made, will be able to find other ways to make up the difference.

At the moment, the FDNY isn't facing the threat of having to close fire companies -- the first time in the past few budget cycles that has been the case.

But the agency -- which has been blocked from hiring for the last four years because of a discrimination lawsuit -- will shed 49 civilian workers by the end of June 2012 and another 29 the following fiscal year.

Department of Education officials said that the mid-year budget adjustments would not result in any direct cuts to city schools.

Earlier this year, the agency was asked to identify $186 million in reductions for Fiscal Year 2012. The agency came up with $147 million in reductions -- enough to satisfy the bosses at the Office of Management and Budget.

DOE officials said the cost reductions will come from new efficiencies in facilities spending, a re-estimation of food service costs and savings in services for special needs children, among other sources.

The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene stands to lose 41 jobs by the end of June 2013 and another 79 positions through attrition.

City Councilwoman Letitia James called for immediate hearings over the proposed cuts.

"There have been a number of incidents throughout the city of individuals who are homeless and suffering from mental illness who represent challenges in our society and who need services," James said.

"To cut back in this area, I believe, is going to affect the safety of residents."

She added that libraries have become "de facto after-school programs" and that it was "inexcusable" to cut them.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn -- who has been criticized for being too cozy politically with the mayor -- was tight-lipped about whether she planned to hold hearings to scrutinize his cuts.

She released a statement that said the council was going to review the cuts.

The city also expects to get new revenue from additional restaurant fines through beefed up enforcement of the program. And it also anticipates more money flowing into city coffers by increasing permit fees -- from $15 to $25 -- for special events and other uses of public streets.

The Department of Investigation is also raising the fingerprinting fee, from $110 to $130, and the Office of Payroll Administration plans to reduce consulting costs on the bloated CityTime program.

The city also intends to take advantage of low interest rates by refinancing its debt.

Also on the chopping block are around 3,000 spots for kids in the Department of Youth and Community Development's Out of School Time program, which provides after school services.

with Jonathan Lemire