By Jill Colvin
CITY HALL — Mayor Michael Bloomberg held firm on his pledge to eliminate more than 6,000 city teaching jobs and slash social service funding for the coming fiscal year.
Under a revised budget plan unveiled at City Hall Friday, the city will continue to pursue its controversial plan to lay off 4,100 teachers and eliminate an additional 2,000 classroom positions through attrition, the mayor said.
"All schools will feel this one way or another," said Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, who said class sizes could increase by up to two to three students, depending on the grade.
The budget also maintains other steep cuts first unveiled in February, including closing 20 fire companies, and adds more than $250 million in new pain.
If enacted, libraries will be forced to be closed more days than they're open; prisoners will pay more to make phone calls, get fewer slices of bread, and be forced to make do without pepper, ice cream and pudding; building fees will increase; and parking rates will rise.
"It is not going to be easy," said the mayor, who placed the blame squarely on the state and federal governments, whose steep cuts have forced the city to bear an ever-greater share of costs, he said.
"Basically the state’s problems have been moved down to become our problems," he said. "We had hoped that Albany would restore education funding, They did not. We had hoped Albany would treat us equally with the rest of the state when it came to cuts. They did not."
In all, the city's total workforce is expected to shrink by about 10,000 people, with the police force down to 34,413 members by June 2012 — a 12 percent drop from a decade ago — and the fire department down to 10,281, about 1,000 fewer than in 2002.
In one piece of good news, more than 10,000 city day care slots for low-income kids that had been slated for elimination will remain open after heavy pressure from advocates and the City Council, which must approve any budget plan.
An additional $40 million will allow all children who are currently enrolled in the program to return next year, the mayor said.
But even before the announcement, criticism was flying.
"We have grave concerns about a budget that allows for teacher layoffs, which would be immensely damaging to our education system and children's opportunities for a quality education," City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Council Finance Chair Domenic Recchia, Jr. said in a statement. "Make no mistake, we will do everything in our power to prevent teacher layoffs."
The teacher's union accused the mayor of trying to lay off teachers when he doesn't have to and trying to shirk the blame.
"Same smoke, same mirrors, same attempt to blame others for his decision to lay off thousands of teachers, despite increased state aid, hundreds of millions in new revenues and a surplus that has grown to more than $3.2 billion," United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said in a statement.
Fire union members also blasted the proposed fire company closures, describing the cuts as "treason."
"I think it would be devastating. For the mayor’s third term, the debacle that was the Christmas Eve snowstorm will look like nothing if he cuts 20 fire companies," said Al Hagan, head of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association.
"I believe that fire deaths will spike," he warned, and urged the mayor to reconsider.
Fire Commissioner Sal Cassano said he remained optimistic that negotiations with the council would keep the companies open, but said closure notices will have to go out next week.
In addition to the cuts this year, the mayor also promised more pain in years to come, with the projected budget deficit set to reach nearly $5 billion in 2013, and less than half the reserve money that will be spent this year left in the bank.
"We’re going to have some big problems to face down the road," he warned.
The budget, which must be approved by the council and passed by June 30, had been scheduled to be released Thursday, but was pushed back because of President Barack Obama's visit.