The president of the Citizens Budget Commission thinks Michael Bloomberg is trying to plug the city’s billion-dollar budget gap in little ways, while ignoring the real issues: pension costs for union members.
“This is how you do a spending cut without dealing with the big issues. You do it in little ways,” said Carol Kellermann, president of the C.B.C., a nonprofit group of business leaders that looks at the city and state’s finances.
Kellermann said the cuts to the police force and schools “are heavy ones to do,” but there aren’t many spending reductions of those magnitude.
“There’s nothing about trying to get concessions from the labor unions,” she said.
Kellermann recalled that the mayor talked during his budget presentation to reporters about pension costs getting out of control. But that didn’t translate to any proposed cuts, she said.
“There was a whole description about the way pension costs are skyrocketing but there is nothing in here about how to curb that, nothing about going to the legislature and creating a new tier” for lower pension benefits, said Kellermann.
“He calls them uncontrollable, which they really aren’t,” she said.
The only person calling for a new pension tier is Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, who isn't running for office again and whose husband, Victor, was a prominent labor leader.
"I don’t hear the City Council members calling for concessions from the labor unions," said Kellermann. “There has to be a reality check here."
But critics of Bloomberg’s plan to rescind the $400 tax rebate for homeowners really have nothing to complain about, said Kellermann.
“I’m disheartened by the outrage that the mayor wants to suspend the tax rebate,” she said. “It’s $400 million that we need and it wasn’t targeted to the most-needed.”
One way the mayor wants to raise revenue for the city right now is to charge customers 6 cents per plastic bag they use when shopping.
Here, to review, are a few other budget proposals the mayor is contemplating:
-Increase Civil Service Exam Fees. The administration said the fees for the exams have not been raised since 1996.
-Eliminating of Fee Exemption for Non-Profit and Charitable Organizations. The Fire Department will ask the City Council to eliminate an exemption for non-profits and charities for fire inspections.
-Red Carpet Special Event Fee Increase. There will be “increased costs and personnel time involved in coordinating and administrating these events.”
-Eliminate Oral Health Program. Eliminate services at 44 locations, and lay-off 57 full-time employees, and 35 part-time employees.
Elimination of Bottled Water at 55 Water Street. The Department of Transportation, which is located there, will be “implementing systems attached to the City water supply.” Which means, basically, drinking tap water.
-Transportation Reductions. Eliminate plans to install GPS system in yellow school buses.
-Eliminate overtime funding for the Civilian Complaint Review Board.
-Increase Caseloads at ACS. That’s for Child Protective Level 1 supervisors.
-Increase Parking Rates. It’s for “selected spaces south of 60th Street” in Manhattan.