By Jill Colvin
MUNICIPAL DISTRICT — The city will save at least half a billion dollars over the next four years under a new plan that streamlines the way it does business, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Monday.
The changes, which range from consolidating office space to modernizing bureaucratic payment nightmares, are the first in a series of initiatives intended to cut waste while simultaneously improving city services, the mayor said.
"We cannot continue on the road we're going," Bloomberg warned. "We have to change with the times."
The city currently has 8,000 vacant desks in its municipal offices, which occupy a whopping seven football fields of space, the mayor's office said. By relocating workers, the city expects to save $50 million over four years.
The city also hopes to save nearly $300 million by centralizing its human resources — which now includes 6,000 employees working on timekeeping — and its collections operations, which are currently scattered across dozens of agencies.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said the move is crucial to preparing for the 2012 budget, which is expected to be more daunting than the one that just passed.
"It's important that we start right now digging as hard as we can to find inefficiencies," she said.
While an estimated 3,000 jobs are expected to be lost through attrition as a result of the changes, Bloomberg said he isn't concerned.
"Our job is not to employ everybody. Our job is to provide services," he said.