The record-breaking $101 billion budget passed by the City Council won with overwhelming support, but left-leaning members say the spending plan shortchanges some of the city’s most vulnerable groups.
The budget is Mayor Eric Adams’ first. It’s roughly $2 billion more than the last one passed under his predecessor, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and was again buoyed by an influx of federal stimulus money.
The plan passed by a vote of 44 to 6 (one member was absent) without any revisions to the deal announced Friday, despite protests over a $215 million cut in public school funding that teachers and principals say could result in loss of programs and staffing. After two years where the city used federal pandemic relief to prop up education funding, the Adams administration is now reverting back to a formula where school budgets are tied to enrollment.
City Comptroller Brad Lander was among those to criticize that decision, saying that the city Department of Education still has roughly $5 billion in unspent federal money.
In advance of the Council’s budget vote, the school cuts drew protests from parents, educators and progressive lawmakers. De Blasio, who is running for Congress, also took a stand against the cuts, marking the first time he has directly opposed Adams, a longtime political ally.
The Council leadership’s response to its left-leaning members has also generated backlash. As City & State first reported, those who spoke out against the budget were left out of a $41 million pot of discretionary funds distributed by Council Speaker Adrienne Adams.
The reportedly punitive cuts to a Boys & Girls club drew the ire of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who tweeted on Tuesday, “I’ve seen a lot of shameful behavior from leadership, but cutting programs for underprivileged kids to score a point? Unbelievable.”
Mandela Jones, a spokesperson for Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, disputed that there was any retaliation involved. But he acknowledged that those who voted against the budget had their names pulled from a list of discretionary awards – even if their districts continued to receive funding.
"In the past, people would actually pull the funding," Jones said. "We're just pulling people's names off the document."
Both the mayor and Council speaker issued separate statements, saying they would increase school funding in the fall should student enrollment rebound. But complicating matters is a mandate from the state Legislature for New York City to shrink class sizes — a development long sought by education advocates and the teachers’ union that came as part of an Albany deal to extend mayoral control of schools.
The mayor opposes the measure, citing the cost of meeting such a goal, which would reduce class sizes for younger students from 25 to 20. Gov. Kathy Hochul — who supported Adams’ request for mayoral control — has yet to sign the legislation.
City lawmakers who supported the budget argued that the plan achieved the goals of balancing public safety with spending in lower-income communities that have historically lacked sufficient public investment. The budget also sets aside $1.3 billion in reserves, enabled by better than expected personal income tax revenues.
But six progressive Council members went against the majority vote: Tiffany Cabán, Alexa Avilés, Charles Barron, Sandy Nurse, Chi Osse, and Kristin Richardson Jordan
Cabán, a Council member from Queens and democratic socialist, said the budget did little to further reduce the NYPD budget to offset education cuts.
“It contains big cuts to our public schools, disproportionately affecting schools in low-income communities of color, which have been long underfunded and overcrowded,” Caban said. “It keeps our current, bloated levels of funding for policing and incarceration intact.”
Richardson Jordan also voted no, criticizing the education cuts, saying “funding education is how we actually stop crime.”
Richardson Jordan also criticized cuts to homeless services and mental health services.
“We should not be patting ourselves on the back for merely restoring just parts of this budget,” she said. “Restoring funding to just parts of what was insufficient in the past and is still insufficient today is not the progressive action that New Yorkers demanded and expected or deserve.”