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City's $82.1 Billion Budget Agreement Funds Summer Jobs

By Jeff Mays | June 8, 2016 7:00pm
 Mayor Bill de Blasio and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito unveiled the fiscal year 2017 budget at City Hall on Wednesday, June 8, 2016.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito unveiled the fiscal year 2017 budget at City Hall on Wednesday, June 8, 2016.
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Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office

MIDTOWN — The Summer Youth Employment Program will receive $39 million a year in funding to provide 60,000 jobs as part of an $82.1 billion budget deal agreed to at City Hall Wednesday afternoon by Mayor Bill de Blasio and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

De Blasio, who headed to California Wednesday night to watch his daughter, Chiara, graduate from college, said this is the earliest the so-called handshake agreement has taken place since 2001 when Rudy Giuliani was mayor.

"How early is it?" de Blasio asked after strolling down City Hall's grand staircase with Mark-Viverito.

"This is a smart, responsible budget agreement," Mark-Viverito said.

City Council finance committee chair Julissa Ferreras-Copeland said the budget deal was also notable for another reason.

"I don't think we've ever had a (budget) handshake with the sun out," Ferreras-Copeland said about the symbolic gesture that's usually held late in the evening.

The fiscal year 2017 budget, which comes ahead of the city's June 30 deadline, also adds to the city's reserves. An additional $250 million will be added to the retiree health benefits trust fund, bringing the total to $3.9 billion. That's in addition to $1 billion in the general reserve fund and $500 million in capital reserves.

"The economy doesn't send you a memo when it's about to turn," de Blasio said about the increased reserves.

The mayor said adding a baseline amount of funding for the summer youth jobs program was not one of his priorities going into budget season, but the City Council made a forceful case for doing so.

There will be 1,000 jobs targeted specifically for vulnerable and at-risk youth. Another $16 million will fund an extra 6,000 year-round jobs for young people.

"A budget is a moral document" that reflects the city's priorities, Ferreras-Copeland said.

Other funding includes:

• $22 million in baseline funding for the city's district attorneys to create programs that offer alternatives to incarceration and to address gun violence and opioid abuse.
• $43 million to improve library services, including keeping six-day-a-week universal service.
• $17.6 million to provide after-school programming for 9,000 students.
• An additional $10 million to fund cultural institutions.
• $13.5 million for a renovation of Richmond University Medical Center's emergency department.

Other previously announced spending includes money to bail out the financially troubled NYC Health + Hospitals Corp. by helping with $180 million in debt service payments, $47 million for a new Staten Island Ferry, $12.3 million in increased funding to hire more traffic agents, $53.7 million to increase homeless services and $79.4 million to fund ThriveNYC and NYC Safe, two mental health efforts that will fund treatment and track those mentally ill who pose a danger to the public.

Not included in the budget is $20 million de Blasio offered to the New York City Board of Elections if it agreed to make certain reforms.

"I would have thought their answer would have been a very fast, 'Yes,' " de Blasio said.

The mayor said the troubled agency didn't agree to make the changes in time but that the offer is still on the table.

Budget Director Dean Fuleihan said there will be no layoffs or staff reductions and that money for some of the additions was found through a search for efficiencies.

"There's a constant search for savings," de Blasio said.

In his analysis of the executive budget, Comptroller Scott Stringer said the city has underestimated out-year budget gaps and overtime costs. He also said the crisis at NYC Health + Hospitals will continue to grow, placing the city at some financial risk.