The New York City Council has completed its month-long analysis of Mayor Eric Adams’ first preliminary budget, combing through costs that range from teachers' salaries to new vehicles. The mayor’s preliminary budget stands at $98.5 billion, leaner than the current blueprint, after he mandated city agency cuts.
The Council wants to expand the size of the mayor’s budget. Some items on its wish list include:
- Thirty-eight uniform sanitation department workers for the agency’s curbside E-Waste collection program: $3.6 million.
- New bathrooms and comfort stations at city parks: $250 million.
- Work, Learn and Grow Youth Employment Program, including a total of 12,000 positions: $43.2 million.
- Pay parity for early childhood and special education pre-K centers: $30 million.
- Mental health assistance to people in 33 communities hit hard by the pandemic:$3 million.
- Eighteen new investigators at the city Department of Investigation: $1.6 million.
In an 18-page statement released Saturday outlining the city’s needs, Speaker Adrienne Adams said the Council’s add-ons are intended to “help the city begin to reverse long-standing inequities and move our neighborhoods forward.”
Those hearings can go from 10 in the morning to sometimes 10 at night depending on what committee it is and whether or not its proposed budget is controversial or not
The mayor did not comment on the Council’s proposals at a news conference Monday. He said he will discuss the Council’s budget response directly with its 51 members.
Such discussions will make up the second phase of the budget process. It will last until the start of the summer, and end with an anticipated public handshake between the two Adamses – the mayor and the council speaker.
Here is a detailed look at how the process works, gathered from the New York City Council website, Independent Budget Office’s handbook, and former Queens Councilmember Daniel Dromm, who oversaw the budget process.
What happened these last few weeks?
The mayor unveiled his preliminary budget on Feb. 16th, outlining the spending plans for every city agency. The preliminary budget—prepared by the Office of Management and Budget, which relies on revenue forecasts—was then submitted to the Council. The presentation included both the general expense budget, and the one for long-term capital projects.
The Council kicked off a series of budget hearings on March 2nd, with budget officials, agency heads, activist groups, and community leaders weighing in. The overall consensus by council members through 29 hearings was that Mayor Adams’ proposal was too austere, and failed to meet the needs of the city.
So what happens now?
The mayor’s budget office will be given time to comb through the Council’s budget requests to determine whether the city can accommodate them. This might involve re-working agency budgets and revenue estimates while listening back to input the budget office received during the first wave of hearings.
That process takes a couple of weeks. Economists will offer guidance to both the mayor and the Council, determining whether revenues and funding from the state and federal government have changed. The budget office will then release a second draft of the spending plan called the Executive Budget. That draft is then presented to the Council and followed by more hearings.
Wait, more hearings?
Yes. Around May, the Council holds another series of hours-long hearings except this time they’re jointly held by the finance committee and the committee with oversight over whatever agency’s budget is on the table.
“It’s quite extensive,” Dromm said. “Those hearings can go from 10 in the morning to sometimes 10 at night depending on what committee it is and whether or not its proposed budget is controversial or not.”
Do New Yorkers get a chance to offer input?
Yes, but only at the very end of the process. The public is invited to testify at the hearing that takes place after all the committees have had the chance to analyze the budget.
Time to dance
At this point, city leaders begin a series of backroom negotiations in which they quibble over what will be included in the city’s final budget. This includes the Council’s negotiating team, the mayor’s budget office, the mayor and the Council speaker. This is often known as the “budget dance. ” The mayor may threaten to cut a vital city funding stream, the Council will react with outrage (and major press conferences), and often, the mayor will restore the cuts.
“Depending on the relationship between the speaker and the mayor, and depending on the economic circumstances that back and forth is not as contentious as it is in other times,” Dromm said. “Sometimes we know we’re headed to an early budget, meaning June 5 [or June] 6, sometimes a late budget.”
There are instances when the budget isn’t passed on time. This happened in 2020 after the Council and the mayor feuded over redistributing a portion of the NYPD’s budget to other agencies after calls to “defund the police.”
When does the proverbial handshake happen?
The handshake usually takes place at City Hall toward the end of June, where the mayor and speaker—surrounded by council members and other key players in the budget process—convene to declare all their work to be officially over.
The Adopted Budget takes effect July 1st, outlining just how monies will be spent from July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023. The budget will also list which nonprofit groups and community-based organizations will receive discretionary funds that help them carry out their work on behalf of the city. Those monies come from each councilmember in which each member gets $400,000 each, with members representing disadvantaged communities receiving a little more.
Members also get $129,000 for funding for senior citizens, and $150,000 for funding for youth. They get $5 million in capital funding as well, which some members distribute through community-based voting projects called Participatory Budgeting.
So is the budget finally set?
Yes, but the mayor can also re-shuffle some budget lines around and tell the Council about it over the next few months. This is called the November course correction.