A new analysis of spending under Mayor Michael Bloomberg shows he’s been on a stunning spending spree since taking office, with the city budget growing faster than under any other mayor for the past three decades. Good for him.
The mayor’s spending surge—the budget has increased 23 percent under his watch—is a good example of what government can do to improve the lives of city residents when its resources are directed by a wise hand. He didn’t squander the money, but rather invested in crucial quality-of-life issues that have resulted in the city increasing its appeal as a world-class city, friendly to families, corporations and tourists. He increased spending on parks by 27 percent, schools by 18 percent and information technology by 300 percent. He has also made sure the Police Department has the resources it needs to do its job.
The results? Cleaner parks, better schools and safer streets. A recipe for urban success.
And rather than simply increase spending, he also made sure to increase revenues, such as his politically risky 18.5 percent property tax increase in 2003 and other new taxes and fees. And when those revenues resulted in front page headlines about good-news surpluses, he used the money to pay down debt and offset future pension costs, rather than spending it recklessly.
This week, budget groups warned that the city needs to prepare for leaner times, as Wall Street profits will take a hit from the national mortgage crisis and hedge fund losses. And when Wall Street cuts back on bonuses, the effect is felt in the real estate market. Mr. Bloomberg has let city agencies know that he may be cutting their budgets in the near future and that the city treasury may need to turn off the tap for a while.
Fortunately, the mayor’s legacy—of keeping the city safe and improving public schools—is very much on his mind, so that less-flush times may not mean cutbacks in those key areas.