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New Spending Boosts Budget That Mayor Touts as Thrifty

Mayor Bill de Blasio delivers the executive budget at City Hall. Photo: Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

Mayor de Blasio on Thursday unveiled a $92.5 billion budget for the coming fiscal year that he said demonstrates “a real focus on fiscal responsibility.”

“There are not a lot of new investments in this budget,” he said during a 70-minute presentation in City Hall’s Blue Room.

The mayor stressed $916 million in savings identified by city agencies since the February release of his $92.2 billion preliminary budget, which would be applied to both the current budget cycle and fiscal year 2020, which begins July 1.

He devoted less attention to nearly $1.5 billion in expenses added over the past two months. Those new needs — $636 million this year and $829 million in fiscal 2020 — include:

⦿ $151.7 million for elections. Democracy can be pricey! The bulk of this funding, $96 million, would help New York City implement a new state law requiring early voting 10 days ahead of each primary and general election.

⦿ $115 million for low-income families. The Department of Social Services would get additional funding to provide rental subsidies that help families move out of homeless shelters, as well as for cash assistance payments to aid New Yorkers in need.

⦿ $303.6 million for private special education. The Department of Education is boosting its spending on tuition for special education students in private schools by $203.1 million in fiscal 2019 and $101.5 million in fiscal 2020. These funds cover settlements in lawsuits routinely filed by parents under federal disabilities law, arguing that the public schools don’t have the necessary services to educate their kids. In recent years, these settlements have been costing DOE more than $400 million annually on average, up from $199 million in fiscal 2013.

⦿ $48.1 million in NYPD overtime. The mayor added the money into the current fiscal year budget, following a year in which the police department spent a total of $723 million on uniform and civilian overtime. The department’s annual budget now tops $6 billion.

The mayor also announced that the cost of the 10-year Capital Strategy Plan has increased since February’s preliminary budget, from $104.1 billion up to $116.9 billion.

The jump includes $7.7 billion budgeted to build four jail sites — one in each borough except Staten Island — to replace facilities slated to close on Rikers Island. Funding to design the new facilities, of $1 billion, was already in the prior capital plan.

“That is the entire cost we anticipate for that program,” the mayor said. De Blasio also said the completion date for the four sites has been pushed up by a year, to 2026.

The proposed expense and capital budgets now go through a second round of public hearings held by City Council throughout May. Afterward, the mayor and City Council work to negotiate a final budget, known as an adopted budget, sometime before the fiscal year ends on June 30.

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