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  January 18, 2004

A Budget Good for All New Yorkers
By Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg

Last Thursday, I presented the City’s preliminary budget for the next fiscal year. It’s our $45.7 billion plan for funding City services for the 12 months beginning July 1st. But like all budgets, this spending plan is about more than money; it’s about people. And this is a good budget for the people of New York.

As has been the case from the beginning of our Administration, this proposed budget preserves the services that New Yorkers rely on to maintain our quality of life. It contains $15 million to match Federal funds for a new class of 730 police officers, who will enter the Police Academy this week. We’ve driven crime down more than 10% over the last two years, and these new officers will help keep New Yorkers safe on the streets and in our homes. The budget also contains an unparalleled commitment to education. We propose creating thousands of new classroom seats in schools throughout the city. And we will also fund the early intervention programs needed to meet our goal of ending social promotion in the 3rd grade. And while this spending plan is fiscally responsible, it’s also compassionate. We will continue to take care of those among us who are less fortunate and need our help, from seniors on fixed incomes to the homeless.

I’m cautiously optimistic about the state of our financial affairs. The recession is over and our economy has begun to grow again. Because we maintained the quality of life over the last two years, jobs are coming back, businesses are investing in this City, and revenues are improving.

That’s not to say that we’re totally out of the woods yet. Although we can balance this budget, we still face deficits in the years ahead. In large part that’s because the City faces uncontrollable expenses, such as enhanced pension benefits for City employees voted by the State legislature, and State-mandated increases in the costs of the Medicaid program. Also, it’s possible that the City’s collective bargaining agreements with municipal unions could go to binding arbitration and produce results unfavorable to the City. To help close future budget gaps, we are therefore proposing productivity savings from our municipal unions and State legislation creating a new pension tier for future employees, one that would be fair to them and fiscally responsible for all of us.

The people of this City stepped up to the plate when we needed them most and reached into their pockets to bail New York out of the fiscal crisis. They expected that we be prudent and spend their tax dollars wisely, and we did. Now that the economy is turning around, we can help those who helped the City. That’s why I want to return money to the public we serve in the form of an annual $400 property tax rebate to the owners of single-family homes, condos and co-ops. The temporary personal income and sales tax surcharges will also phase out on schedule.

With this tax relief, and with the spending priorities we have set, we have produced a budget that is sound, realistic, responsible, and good for all New Yorkers.