Teacher Layoffs Averted, Fire Companies Saved in City Budget Deal
By Kiratiana Freelon on June 24, 2011 9:00pm |
By Jill Colvin
MANHATTAN — Teacher layoffs have been averted and no fire companies will close under a new budget deal reached late Friday night, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the City Council announced following months of heated debate.
While 1,000 city workers are still expected to lose their jobs, a deal between the city, the teachers' union and the Council will save 4,000 teaching jobs that had been on the chopping block.
About 2,600 teachers will still be lost through attrition, officials said — more than the city had initially said.
All 20 fire companies that had been slated for closure will also remain open, and no seniors' centers will close.
While full details were still being hammered out late Friday, the budget also provides additional funding for city childcare, libraries and social services, and maintains Administration for Children's Services case workers, although the agency will face layoffs.
"Our children will still have the same number of great teachers, our seniors will still have great senior centers to visit and our neighborhoods will still have great firehouses to keep them safe," City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said at a late-night news conference at the Tweed Courthouse, which was later interrupted by cheers as the Senate passed the gay marriage bill.
"We had tough choices to make. Thank God we managed the good financial times of this city well," she said. "We're in a much better place than we could have been in."
Bloomberg, however, remained cautious, warning of an even more dire budget hole in the years ahead.
"Make no mistake about it. This is not a good-news budget," he said.
While saving teaching jobs had not appeared to be an administration priority in the weeks leading up to the deal, the mayor said that because of the "Last In, First Out" seniority-based firing rule, focusing on teachers made the most sense.
"We always have the money. They question is, do we need to spend it on this or that? Or spend it now or later," he said.
Both the mayor and the Council also repeatedly gave credit to the United Federation of Teachers, which agreed to $60 million in concessions to save teachers' jobs.
As part of the agreement, the Department of Education will redeploy 1,600 reserve pool teachers in an effort to cut spending on substitute teachers. There will be a one-year suspension of all study sabbaticals for the 2012-2013 school year, the city said.
But not everyone was celebrating the budget deal.
"The absolute worst was averted, but we were really tying to save all of those teachers," said Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters, who said that class sizes are still likely to increase because of attrition.
Despite past years' of threats of layoffs that never came to fruition, Haimson said she was bracing for the worst.
"The mayor seemed more stubborn than ever in the past," she said. "When you have people playing chicken like that with your kids' lives, you get nervous."
The city had appeared on the verge of a separate deal earlier this week with the Municipal Labor Committee that would have plugged the budget hole using money from the joint Health Insurance Stabilization Fund, but that deal unraveled Thursday.
"There's a bunch of unions and Harry [Nespoli, chair of the MLC]'s got to get them all on board," the mayor said Friday morning during his weekly radio sit-down on WOR.
The Council is expected to vote on the new deal Tuesday, Quinn said.