MANHATTAN — The Bloomberg administration has put city agencies on alert that they must slash another two percent from their budgets this year, and a whopping six percent in 2013, to cope with a “dire financial situation.”
Agencies including the NYPD, FDNY and the Department of Education have two weeks to submit their suggestions to the city’s budget office, according to a letter sent to city agencies on Tuesday.
The letter also calls for a hiring freeze across all city agencies, effective immediately, except for positions directly impacting health and safety. The cuts are intended to save $500 million this year and $1.5 billion next year, the mayor’s office said.
“We’re looking at extreme economic uncertainty and State and Federal governments that are likely to further cut funds,” Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway said in a statement, echoing the language of the letter which also points to a “chaotic stock market."
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said that while the cuts are "sizable," the council "will work to ensure that all possible alternatives are considered before core programs are targeted for cuts."
"With revenues falling and a multi-billion dollar deficit looming, it's prudent to begin looking closely at the City's budget now," she said in a statement.
Council Finance Chair Domenic Recchia said that revenues have been coming in lower than expected and felt the mayor had no choice but to call for further cuts.
“It’s what we need to do to balance the budget," he said, adding that he hopes the economic forecast will improve to lessen the blow in the coming fiscal year.
But advocates said that after the last bruising round of cuts that slashed human services and other departments, they’re left shaking their heads as to where to save money.
“There’s nothing left to cut,” said City Councilwoman Gale Brewer, who said that she and others spent hundreds of hours in negotiations working to save child care, senior services and programs for young people in need.
She said a two percent cut across-the-board would likely include senior center and day care center closures, as well as more cuts to after-school programs, youth programs and programs for people with HIV/AIDS.
She called on everyone to brainstorm new ways to cut and raise revenues without compromising services.
“It’s a very bad scenario … You don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel,” she said, adding that she was caught off-guard by the mayor's request.
United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said that nearly 7,000 city classrooms were already larger than their contractual sizes and said schools, in particular, have been pushed too far.
“The schools system has had three years of cuts. We cannot have any more,” he said, joining Brewer in a renewed call for Albany to reinstate the so-called “millionaire’s tax" on those who earn more than $200,000 a year, to provide extra revenue for the city and state.
But Mulgrew assured that no matter what happens, teacher jobs are secure for the remainder of this year thanks to a deal reached in June between the mayor’s office, City Council and the teacher’s union that saved 4,000 teaching jobs that had been on the chopping block.
Mulgrew said the deal prevents the DOE from laying off any members through the end of the fiscal year, and said he will take the case to court if the city tries to renege on the agreement.
The Department of Education spokeswoman did not immediately rule out teacher layoffs in the current or next fiscal year.
"We are facing a very difficult fiscal reality, but we will do our best to look for ways to reduce spending while limiting the impact on our classrooms," spokeswoman Barbara Morgan said.
In addition to preventing teacher layoffs, the June budget deal also saved 20 fire companies and numerous seniors' centers that have repeatedly been pegged for closure.