Photo Courtesy of Edwin Torres/Mayoral Photography Office
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Office indicated that this year’s agreement marks the earliest budget handshake between the mayor and Council since 1992.
By Michael V. Cusenza
Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council leadership on Friday announced an agreement for an on-time and balanced City budget for Fiscal Year 2018, marking the earliest handshake since 1992.
The deal on an approximately $85.2 billion budget, according to de Blasio, “builds on the administration’s ambitious plan for investing in our public schools, youth workforce development, seniors and veterans, while protecting and strengthening the City’s long-term fiscal health.”
The highlights of the new budget include:
• $105.53 million in capital funding and $1.8 million in expense to ensure Universal Physical Education by 2021.
• $23 million to eliminate the Home Care and Case Management waitlists, create a new program to offer relief to caregivers, provide weekend meals to seniors utilizing Senior Centers or the Home Delivered Meals programs, and enhance rates paid to senior centers.
• A Veterans Property Tax Exemption for any veteran who served during a war, saving an average of $443 per year, per person at a cost to the city of $25 million annually.
• $20 million to provide 6,500 year-round jobs through the Work, Learn and Grow.
• $9 million to expand the Summer Youth Employment Program from 65,000 to 70,000 slots.
• $30 million in FY18 growing to $104 million in FY22 to provide enhanced resources and support to our nonprofit service providers.
• $6.4 million to continue deployment of rapid-response “Fly Cars” in the Bronx, continue strategic placement of emergency vehicles in high-need locations, place EMS personnel at Bronx hospitals, and $17 million in capital to replace the existing EMS 17 facility.
• $7.2 million – an increase of 15 percent from last year’s spending – for the Emergency Food Assistance Program to address the projected demand.
• $2.1 million to expand Breakfast in Classrooms to an additional 303 buildings, bringing the total to 833.
• $10.4 million to expand the Free School Lunch program in schools.
• $110 million to assist with capital projects in libraries across the city.
De Blasio indicated that he was especially proud of several initiatives, including those that focus on veterans issues.
“Once again, localities have to step up where the federal government has been absent. And there’s something we can do for our veterans, and this was a major priority for both the administration and the Council,” the mayor noted. “This budget expands the property tax exemption for veterans who served in wartime. And it’s going to put money back in their pocket. And it’s what we owe our vets.”
While this year’s agreement arrived remarkably early, one stalemate, regarding immigrant legal defense funding, still lingers. This year’s budget includes a $16.4 million allocation that de Blasio featured in his Executive Budget to provide free defense counsel to immigrants under threat of deportation – provided that those immigrants haven’t been convicted of any one of a list of 170 serious offenses. City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito wanted the stipulation removed.
They agreed to disagree on the matter.
“We’re acknowledging a difference. And, right now, what we’ve all agreed on is there needs to be money for legal services for undocumented folks facing deportation,” de Blasio said. “The issue will be resolved in the contracting process. Now, I have very strong views I’ve made clear. And the contracting process resides in the executive branch, so I’ll leave it at that.”