Budget woes will mean cuts to city agencies, Mayor de Blasio warns

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio presents the Fiscal Year 2020 preliminary budget at City Hall on Thursday.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio presents the Fiscal Year 2020 preliminary budget at City Hall on Thursday. Photo Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

Mayor de Blasio warned city agencies to brace for budget cuts as he unveiled his $92.2 billion preliminary budget for fiscal year 2020 on Thursday.

He also said the city would extend its current hiring freeze as part of an effort to find $750 million in savings. DeBlasio blamed a volatile stock market and looming budget cuts from Albany for some of the fiscal uncertainty.

“Economic history tells us all recoveries have to end,” he said.

Plummeting personal income tax revenue in recent months has also resulted in $935 million less in funds than what was projected.

“We have some tough choices up ahead under any scenario,” de Blasio said during his budget address at City Hall.

This is the first time de Blasio has initiated a Program to Eliminate the Gap, known as PEG, during his time as mayor. Commonly used in previous administrations, PEGs require each city agency to find cost savings.

De Blasio said each agency’s budget cut suggestions would be reviewed, however if they are not “forthcoming” the decision would be left to Budget Director Melanie Hartzog.

“We are not going to undermine the most essential services, public safety, public schools,” de Blasio said. “That doesn’t mean a public safety agency or DOE can’t find savings that don’t effect front line services.”

The proposed budget is $3 billion larger than last year’s spending plan. De Blasio said some of that increase can be attributed to labor agreements, additional spending for special education and mandatory payments to charter schools.

Thursday’s announcement marked the beginning of the long, so-called “budget dance,” which includes City Council hearings and negotiations.

The proposed budget includes $106 million for half-priced MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers as part of the Fair Fares NYC program, $25 million to expand the city’s 3-K for All to new districts in the Bronx and Brooklyn, and $5.3 million to train police officers in handling incidents involving people with mental health issues.

Some transit advocates said the budget does not include enough funding for Fair Fares.

"While this is a significant investment, it falls short of the full funding required to expand Fair Fares to all working-age New Yorkers at or below poverty,” the Riders Alliance said in a statement. “Most immediately, we still need a concrete plan and timetable for rolling out the full program.”