Mayor Bill de Blasio Monday unveiled a $77.7 billion preliminary budget that increases city spending over last year by more than $2 billion -- with no major cuts, tax hikes or city-worker layoffs.
The budget -- which the mayor presented in the Blue Room of City Hall under the slogan "Responsible. Progressive. Honest." -- boosts city spending to $58.87 billion for the upcoming fiscal year from $56.72 billion for 2015.
The plan injects dollars to shorten emergency response times, hire lawyers to fight what the mayor considers to be frivolous police-brutality lawsuits, reduce violence against teen inmates and house the homeless, among numerous other allocations.
"We believe this very strongly here. Budgets are about values. Budgets are by definition a statement of values. It is an indication of what kind of city we are, of what kind of city we want to be in the future," de Blasio said during his presentation, aided by top aides and PowerPoint.
De Blasio's presentation Monday opened the New York City budget season, a process that must be completed before July 1, when the 2016 fiscal year begins. In the spring, de Blasio will present a revised budget, kicking off City Council hearings and final negotiations between his office and the council and concluding with a ceremonial handshake under the rotunda of City Hall.
The mayor took office with a surplus -- but also saddled with expired labor contracts with every labor union representing the city's workforce. Since taking office, de Blasio has settled contracts covering 71 percent of workers.
Among the mayor's proposals:
$11.3 million for 45 new ambulance tours, and $6.7 million for 149 new paramedics dispatchers
$3.2 million to hire 40 lawyers and paralegals to fight lawsuits by people claiming brutality by the NYPD.
$5 million to handle the swell of thousands of applications for the city's new municipal ID program, which provides identity documents regardless of immigration status.
De Blasio's budget does not mandate that city agencies cut their budgets -- known in bureaucratic parlance as a "program to eliminate the gap," or "PEG."
Instead, the administration sent a letter in November to agency commissioners asking that they try to find savings by increasing efficiency, eliminating waste, consolidating programs or reducing consultants and outside contractors.
"Please keep in mind that we will not accept recommendations that will lead to a reduction in current service levels," budget chief Dean Fuleihan's letter said.
The budgeting philosophy is a change from the mayoralty of Michael Bloomberg, when agencies were sometimes told to reduce spending by a set amount.
The city's final fiscal outlook for the upcoming year will depend on the budget that Albany ultimately passes later this year.