City Council Approves $78.5 Billion Budget for New York City

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. (Photo: William Alatriste/NYC Council's Office)
Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. (Photo: William Alatriste/NYC Council’s Office)

The City Council formally approved a $78.5 billion city budget this afternoon, days after coming to an agreement with Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The budget, adopted for the 2016 fiscal year, includes the overwhelming majority of the priorities the Council had pushed—including 1,300 new police officers, money to keep libraries open 6 days a week, and increased funding for senior citizens and veterans.

The speaker celebrated the spending plan, the process that birthed it and its uncharacteristically early midday approval.

“It is daytime,” she said emphatically, even as she threw shade at Albany and its infamous closed backroom dealings. “There were no ‘three men in the room’ here. Three women of color negotiated this budget. It is an inclusive and democratic City Council.”

Ms. Mark-Viverito and many of her colleagues scored a win by successfully persuading Mr. de Blasio to hire 1,300 new police officers, including 300 for counter-terrorism duty. The Council argued the additional officers are needed to improve relations between police and communities of color; a recent spike in shootings, however, seemed to also play a role in changing the conversation over policing.

For fiscal reasons, Mr. de Blasio initially balked at adding the cops, telling radio listeners at one point the city had other more pressing priorities. But he reversed himself, announcing a new policing strategy yesterday that will incorporate more beat cops to better acquaint neighborhood residents with their police.

The new officers will cost $170 million in fiscal year 2016, which begins on July 1, and will be on the force before the end of that fiscal year. The cost will be offset by $70 million in savings, derived largely from “creating real caps on overtime,” Mr. de Blasio said earlier this week, and civilianization of some jobs. Because those caps will take time to ramp up, in fiscal year 2016 the savings will be just $20 million, before ramping up to $70 million in fiscal year 2017.

Not everyone in the Council was thrilled with the investment.

“I believe $170 million for police is a failed flaw,” objected Brooklyn Councilwoman Inez Barron, noting incidents of alleged abuse of minorities by law enforcement and voting against the expenditure.

The mayor’s office has not said how much the new officers would cost over their lifetime of service. One issue still undecided is what will happen to the pensions awarded to police officers (and other uniformed workers) who are injured on the job—with Albany considering restoring 75 percent disability benefits that were lowered several years ago, a proposal Mr. de Blasio says is too costly.

The Council also scored victories in other areas. The budget includes an extra $39 million for libraries—which will mean universal six-day library service and extended hours at some branches.

The budget includes additional money for senior citizens, a fast-growing segment of the city’s population who advocates said would be faced with service reductions if the city’s budget did not increase. The Department for the Aging will get $4.3 million to eliminate waitlists for its home care program, $2 million to expand elder abuse prevention, and $750,000 to fund support services through the Seniors in Affordable Rental Apartments program.

Among other Council priorities in the budget are a doubling of the small budget for the Mayor’s Office for Veterans Affairs, and funding for 50,000 summer youth jobs and 6,000 year-round youth jobs.

The $1.4 million bail fund Ms. Mark-Viverito proposed in her State of the City address, which Mr. de Blasio initially resisted, is also in the budget.

City Council Approves $78.5 Billion Budget for New York City