Mayor Eric Adams and the New York City Council on Friday agreed on a $101 billion budget that they said would cushion the blow of the pandemic on the most vulnerable New Yorkers through an expansion of the summer youth jobs program, childcare for low-income families and investments in new programs like universal dyslexia screening in schools and correctional facilities.
Buoyed by better-than-expected income tax revenues, the spending plan added $1.6 billion to the city’s general reserve fund as insurance against what the mayor said could be rockier financial times ahead.
The mayor announced the handshake deal, which took the form of a hug, alongside Speaker Adrienne Adams before the steps of the City Hall Rotunda. The annual custom is the last step to finalizing the budget, which typically takes place on the last day of June. That’s followed by the members officially adopting the budget to take effect July 1st.
The agreement added about $1 billion more than what the mayor proposed in his executive budget. Budget details will be available next week, but one contentious issue that did not appear to be resolved was the funding of public schools.
Public school principals have expressed worries over cuts due to lower enrollment. For the last two years, the city used stimulus money to keep schools’ funding consistent despite pandemic-era enrollment declines — meaning their budgets did not shrink even though they were serving fewer students than before. New York City public schools have lost around 50,000 students during the last two years, according to the Department of Education.
“We had a major drop in student population in our Department of Education,” the mayor said when asked about the cuts shortly after the budget announcement. “We're not cutting, we are adjusting the amount based on the student population.”
Adams had proposed reducing individual school budgets facing enrollment declines by a total of $215 million. He warned the lower enrollment could result in less federal funding, but said schools would still receive the amount of funding they are entitled to under the city’s fair student funding formula. Critics have said the formula does not allocate enough to students with extra needs.
Still, officials with the Adams administration have promised to soften the blow of the budget reductions based on enrollment by using federal stimulus funds over the next two years and then phasing in the funding reductions to schools with lower enrollment.
Many parents and educators lobbied for Adams to reverse the cuts, saying that, given the academic disruption and mental health strain of the pandemic, students need the resources more than ever.
New York City Comptroller Brad Lander criticized the cuts in a press release, saying that the DOE still has several billions of dollars in unspent federal stimulus funding.
We should not be forcing schools to implement sharp cuts to their budgets this summer.
“Our schools have endured the hardest two years and need every penny to provide the social, emotional, and academic supports that all our students deserve this summer and fall,” he said. “We should not be forcing schools to implement sharp cuts to their budgets this summer.”
The local chapter of the United Federation of Teachers at MS839 in Brooklyn issued a statement saying that its budget was cut by hundreds of thousands of dollars. According to the release, upwards of six staff members won’t be able to return because of the reduction in funding. Class sizes will also increase, while arts, sports and enrichment programming will be gutted, according to the press release.
One Brooklyn principal, who asked not to be identified because she was not authorized to speak to the press, said she was especially concerned about the enrollment-based funding reductions because the city’s projection appeared to not take into account its latest enrollment numbers.
“We have more first graders going into second grade than they’re saying we have,” she said.
It’s also not clear how the city will enact a new state law requiring smaller class sizes passed by the state Legislature last week. Adams has been adamant that the city could not afford to meet the new class size targets without making deep cuts elsewhere. The class-size legislation is awaiting Gov. Kathy Hochul’s signature.
In another budget cut that drew attention, the city will no longer add 574 correction officers, the mayor said.
Speaker Adams said the Council had been concerned about chronic absences at facilities like Rikers Island, where staffing shortages have led to what some say is an ongoing humanitarian crisis. She said she wanted the Department of Correction to take a closer look at how staff was being managed.
Meanwhile, the NYPD budget is expected to remain flat. The mayor’s executive budget had added $228 million in the current fiscal year and around $182 million to the NYPD, mostly to fund overtime expenses.
“We want to see the NYPD managed more appropriately because the money is there,” Speaker Adams said.
The mayor and Council also highlighted funding to address an ongoing homelessness crisis on city streets and subways. The budget includes $226 million to expand the Behavioral Health Emergency Assistance Response Division, or B-HEARD, and the addition of “1,400 new safe haven and stabilization beds by mid-2023” the mayor’s office said. The beds are specifically designed to treat mental health and substance use issues for homeless New Yorkers.
The budget includes $90 million set aside for homeowners for a property tax rebate, a move that the mayor said would help small landlords. Some have argued that the city needed to spend more to address the affordable housing crisis that has only worsened with rising rents.
The budget deal was one of the earliest in recent years. In 2016, former Mayor Bill de Blasio reached a handshake deal with the Council on June 8th.