By Jill Colvin
CITY HALL — The City Council voted in favor of a $66 billion budget deal Wednesday that saves teachers' jobs and prevents fire company closures, but forces other cuts across the board.
Council members voted 49-1 in favor of the plan, which had originally been scheduled for vote at 8 p.m. Tuesday night. The vote was delayed at the last-minute as details and technical issues were ironed out, and the Council finally reconvened 15 hours later, at 11 a.m.
The final budget deal, announced late last Friday, avoids some of the most devastating cuts that had been proposed by the mayor.
"What we did in this budget was identify the areas where the pain that was proposed was simply too deep," said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who cited classes so big kids couldn't learn and parents who would be forced to quit their jobs because of day care cuts.
Still, she acknowledged that services would be reduced.
"This is not a budget that comes without any level of pain. To do that would be almost dishonest with New Yorkers because we simply, in this recession, don’t have the resources to meet every need," she said.
The final budget passed by the Council avoids more than 4,000 teachers layoffs Mayor Michael Bloomberg had long promised would be necessary, and also keeps all fire companies and senior centers open.
Nonetheless, class sizes are expected rise as an estimated 2,600 teachers leave through attrition, and schools will have to cope with other cuts, including reduced operating budgets and the elimination of Teacher's Choice, which previously reimbursed teachers for classroom expenses.
Approximately 1,000 non-uniformed workers are also expected to be laid off and childcare vouchers reduced. Members also bemoaned the loss of the Vallone Scholarship, one of the only sources of aid for undocumented students, Upper Manhattan Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez said.
While libraries had been warning of devastation, the final budget restores $36.7 million of the $40 million proposed cut, which will allow all Manhattan branches to remain open, though hours will likely be cut, a library spokeswoman said.
As part of its restoration, the City Council will also provide an additional $30 million to remove PCB-containing light fixtures in public schools. The City Council also added extra funds funding for community groups, cultural organizations, school custodians and senior centers.
But Brooklyn City Council Member Charles Barron, the sole members to vote "No," slammed the budget as "immoral" and "wrong" and said it prioritizes the rich as the expense of the poor.
"Black, brown and poor working-class families are going to suffer because of this budget," he said.
While other members said they believed the deal was the best that could be done during such tough fiscal times, the proceedings were interrupted twice by protesters who had begged members to reject the deal because of the cuts.
"No cuts! No layoffs! No compromise!" one shouted before being escorted out of the hearing at Emigrant Savings Bank — the Council's temporary chambers while City Hall is being restored.
Thirteen of the protesters, many of whom have spent the past two weeks camped out across from City Hall, were also arrested Tuesday night after barricading themselves inside the 250 Broadway municipal building.
The new fiscal year begins July 1.