Mayor restores boards’ funding

By Lesley Sussman

Local community boards that expressed concern over having their budgets slashed breathed a sigh of relief after learning last week that Mayor Bloomberg’s fiscal year 2011 executive budget calls for the full restoration of community board funding to $198,895.

The restoration comes after almost $60,000 in reductions for each community board were proposed by the Mayor’s Office of Management and Budget earlier this year.

Community Board 3 District Manager Susan Stetzer said the board had planned to go before the City Council to argue against the cuts.

“Now we don’t have to do that,” she said. “Community board work is important, and the boards would have been devastated by these cuts.”

Stetzer quipped that “if the cuts came I was going to put a coffee cup outside our office.”

She said the restoration of the full budgets for all 59 of the city’s community boards meant that there wouldn’t have to be staff layoffs. She added that the City Council may vote to approve another $8,000 to “cover the last managerial raise from last year” — for the boards’ district mangers.

Locally, the restoration of funds will affect Community Boards 1, 2 and 3. These boards — joined by others throughout the city — had reached out for help to their borough presidents and city councilmembers. 

Ultimately, it was Mayor Bloomberg who proposed the budget restoration. Some sources said he may have done so to dispel growing criticism that he was not supportive of the boards. Most community board leaders had thought they would have to take their fight to the City Council, which still must approve the mayor’s executive budget.

The boards are volunteer organizations comprised of up to 50 members. Members are appointed by the borough presidents, with half of each board’s appointments based on nominations by local councilmembers.

The boards — although their recommendations are advisory only — play a vital role in the city’s governmental process and provide community members their best opportunity to influence decisions that will impact their lives at a local level.

Such boards assist individuals, families and businesses in resolving a litany of quality-of-life complaints and also in getting city regulations enforced. In addition, the City Charter and state agencies mandate that community boards weigh in on a range of issues, including applications for liquor licenses, street fairs and sidewalk cafes. They also have a role in the public review of land-use issues, and make recommendations to the mayor and City Council on budget expenditures and priorities within the district.

Monies allotted to the boards are used to fund the salaries of each board’s district manager and support staff, as well as for various office operating expenses.