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Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Announces Record High Graduation Rate, Presents the Fiscal Year 2021 Preliminary Budget

January 16, 2020

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Well, everybody, today is the day to announce the City's preliminary budget. And we're going to do that in just a moment, but we just found out some really wonderful news that matters to all the people in New York City and particularly to our parents, our young people, our educators. This is a moment that people should be very, very proud of that once again, we have good news about the graduation rate in our public schools and further proof that our public schools continue to get better and stronger all the time.

So we're going to talk about that first and I have the honor of introducing Linet Mercedes, who's going to tell her story, and then I'll speak, and the Chancellor will speak, and we'll take some questions on the graduation rate. And then, we'll reset for a moment and go onto the preliminary budget discussion. So, with that, great pleasure to welcome Linet, and we're going to make you taller. Look at that. Alright, Linet –


Mayor: Wow. It's not fair when the person who introduces you is better spoken than you ever hope to be. So, Linet, that's amazing. Absolutely amazing what – you are the American dream and you're the New York City dream, and, you know, I want to just commend you. You're everything that we're talking about when we mean that every young person deserves that opportunity for great education. There needs to be equity, there needs to be excellence, and we want to give every young person the opportunity to go as far as they can possibly go. And you are a living example of that and it is inspirational to hear the way you've applied yourself and now what your future holds. Let's, let's congratulate Linet for all she has done.


And the praise for her principal, Principal Mark House, congratulations. You did something right. Give him a round of applause, too.


So, I'm going to be very quick and then turn to the Chancellor. But this is – this really is a moment to celebrate and to note the importance of. Look, the whole idea here has been to change the assumptions of what's possible in New York City public schools. When you listened to Linet just then, you know, any parent anywhere would be so proud if their child could get up in front of a room full of adults and TV cameras and give those kinds of remarks. This is what's possible in the New York City public schools every single day. This is what's happening. And a lot of us came up with the notion that some of our schools were good and some of our schools were bad and it was always going to be that way. A lot of us came up with the notion that our school system was stuck and could not get better.

We've been saying now for six years that things can change and will change and are changing. And this announcement today about graduation rate speaks volumes. This has always been the standard that tells us if we're moving or if we're not. And for a long, long time in the city, graduation rate wasn't moving and the dropout rate was astoundingly high and that was considered somehow normal. Now we believe that every young person can achieve. We believe that every school must be a good quality school. And we've taken a series of steps to make that come true and a lot more to come. And we'll be saying a lot more about that next few weeks.

But we can tell you this, something is working before our very eyes. And so the news we got today from the State of New York that makes us all so proud, it's been six years in a row that the graduation rate has gone up in New York City and I'm now proud to announce New York City graduation rate is 77.3 percent. Congratulations to the Chancellor. Congratulations to all the educators, all the parents, all the students.

This increase is across every borough, every demographic within our city. In the course of our six years, the graduation rate has gone up nine percent, proving how quickly change can happen. Now I got to say something, this is the largest school system in America. People used to believe it could not achieve. Now it's achieving more and more. And in fact, New York City public schools increased our graduation rate faster, better than the rest of the State of New York. That used to be considered an impossibility. And we are getting closer every day to achieving the national average of graduation rate to be doing as good as any school in America is expected to do. So something's really changing here. We see it in graduation rate, we see it in college readiness, we see it with the number of young people going on to higher education. We see it in test scores.

We see it in that achievement gap that we've all been talking about for a long time, a lot of people thought couldn't move. It is moving now. We saw that with the test scores a few months ago. We see it here again with the graduation rate. So something is really happening. Linet, your example gives us a lot of hope today and I want to congratulate everyone who's been a part of it and now turn to the man who's been engineering this success, our Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza.

Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. And, Linet is a great example of the students that we have in the New York City Department of Education in New York City. And I just want to say to you, you make us very proud.

[Chancellor Carranza speaks in Spanish]

So Mr. Mayor, thank you for giving us an opportunity to share this good news with all New Yorkers. I would like to acknowledge several people that are here as part of our team. First and foremost, our Chief Academic Officer, Dr. Linda Chen. Thank you for being here. Our Deputy Chancellor for the Division of Specialized Instruction and Student Support, Corinne Rello-Anselmi. Our Deputy Chief Academic Officer for Multilingual Learners, Mirza S�nchez-Medina. We're also joined – if there are some technical questions she's the person we're going to turn to as well, our Executive Director of Research Policy and Support, Michelle Paladino. And obviously we've already met the incredible Mr. House who does a wonderful job at Community Health Academy for the Heights – CHAH? That's right? Okay. And, obviously the person that we probably will one day work for, Linet Mercedes. 

So I want to thank you again for being here, both Mr. House and Linet. It's schools like CHAH, schools with the drive and the energy we all feel here today, they are the real leaders in our mission of achieving true equity and excellence. And we're honored that you're here with us. Not only are they seeing steady increases in graduation rates, which is why they're here today, but they are seeing gains across the board at their school. More of their students are college ready than ever before and more of them are enrolling in college and taking what they've learned right to the next level. In fact, they've had an incredible increase in graduation rate over Mr. House's tenure there.

How many percentage points have you grown?

Principal Mark House: [Inaudible]

Chancellor Carranza: 59 to 85, which shows the power of leadership and teaching and great students. So this is the news. We're especially excited to announce that our four-year citywide graduation rate has reached, as Mr. Mayor you have announced, 77.3 percent. That is a 1.4 percentage point increase from 2018 and an eight – nine percent, percentage point increase since the start of this administration. We're also making real progress as you mentioned on the opportunity achievement gap between our black and white students, which has decreased 5.5 points over the course of this administration and our Hispanic, Latino, and white students, which has decreased by 6.2. So we've shrunk it by those percentages. We're also seeing the borough of the Bronx with the largest gains up 2.8 points from last year, which is twice the citywide increase. So there are great things happening in the Bronx as well.

These improvements aren't happening in a vacuum or only in certain parts of our city. There's incredible work happening in all of our schools in every borough, every day, whether it's more AP courses, as Linet mentioned, the SAT school day, more college visits, more counseling. Let me tell you why it's happening because we've set a higher bar for every student no matter who they are. And we continue to work to give them the support they need to make sure they reach that bar. It's the true meaning of Equity and Excellent, sir, and the agenda for education in New York City. So it's no surprise that it's not just our graduation rate. Our schools are stronger than ever and we're seeing that across all of the metrics that we monitor.

But even as graduation rates rise, we must continue to work towards closing the opportunity achievement gap because all students deserve to graduate from school, high school, and move on to college and careers. That's why we continue to focus and forge ahead with our Equity and Excellence agenda programs like 3-K for All, universal literacy, other for all programs so our children have a running start. AP for All, College Access for All. They do more to get our students ready for college and early college so that from the moment they enter high school, they're on a path to success. These are investments and these are programs that will lead us to even bigger gains in the future and they will empower our students in our schools, in our communities to continue to do the good work they're doing. So today is a day to celebrate, but at the end of the day, it's get back to work because we want to not only catch the national average, we want to surpass that national average, sir.

So congratulations and thank you to our students, our teachers, our administrators, and our school communities and especially our parents for all that they do to make this a reality. And sir, a point of personal privilege, before I say a few words in Spanish, I just want to take a moment to recognize Corinne Rello-Anselmi, who is here with us today. Our Deputy Chief Academic Officer for Special Education. Corinne is going to kill me for recognizing her in such a public way but she has played an incredible role in our school system across many of our schools, and throughout all of those roles, she has been a steadfast, unapologetic advocate for our students with special needs, ensuring that they have access to inclusive settings. And you will see that they continue to increase their graduation rates as well. And she's made sure that there – our students with special needs are prepared for postsecondary success. And while we congratulate her on her upcoming retirement, there's no question that it's a loss for the children in the Department of Education. So I want to thank you, Corinne, for your over 40 years of service to the children of this city. Thank you.


So just a few words in Spanish –

[Chancellor Carranza speaks in Spanish]

Thank you.

Mayor: Well done. Well done. Thank you, Chancellor. Okay, Linet, you can have a seat. You can have your own press conference later because I think people want to get to know you for the future. Questions first on the announcement on the graduation rate. We'll take any questions related to that, and then again, we'll reset around the budget. Go ahead.

Question: So, only 71 percent of the city's graduates last year actually met the standards for CUNY for college readiness, so do you think you really have a reason to celebrate?

Mayor: Look, I'll start and turn to the Chancellor. The issue here is how quickly can we move this school system and how can we move it across the board. And that's what we continue to see evidence of. We saw it in the test scores that proved not only was there improvement across the city but that we were actually starting to shrink the achievement gap. We see again now continued progress and shrinking that achievement gap. That's very, very hope-inducing and all of the initiatives are starting to sing together, you know, Linet mentioned that she took those Advanced Placement courses because now they're mandated in every high school. That's changing the reality for a lot of young people. All the pieces that we are putting in place I think are starting to add up. That said, we're very proud that more young people are going on to higher education, but we know we got to both increase that number and increase the quality of the education they get before they go on. So I say there's steady progress, plenty more to do. But what New York City public schools have proven is they now are in a constant growth pattern.

Chancellor Carranza: I will only add to what the Mayor has said is that we know that without a high school diploma, students have very limited options. So the fact that more students are earning their high school diploma is a thing to celebrate. We continue to work on college and career opportunities for our students because we know, quite frankly, not every student wants to go to college. But with the diploma, we're also proud of the fact that more of our students are earning advanced diplomas, Advanced Regents diplomas. In fact, it's up 0.3 percent from last year, a full 3.4 percentage points since the start of this administration. So students are applying themselves and, you know, part of what we said – it's a day to celebrate, but it's also a day to get back to work because we realize there's more we want to accomplish.

Question: There was a slight increase in drop-out rates this year. I'm wondering if you have any explanation about why that might have happened.

Mayor: Yeah, so we're actually scrubbing that data to see there – see what is behind that. It's relatively speaking in terms of statistical, it's really flat, but it's about a hundred students and we're looking at coding, we're looking at ways students were coded as dropouts. That shifted a little bit this year. So we're doing a really deep dive on that. What I can tell you is that we have not only invested but focus more of our attention and our resources on making sure that we're capturing students before they leave the system. So it seems a little discordant to us, so we're actually scrubbing that data.

Question: Can you tell us what the leading causes you can take from your studies of kids dropping out? What's the driver of that when it happens?

Chancellor Carranza: Well, you know, in any school system there are a number of things that cause students to drop out of school. Everything from students that have difficult situations, students in temporary housing, students that are in foster care, etcetera, to things like disinterest or not being engaged in the curriculum. So when we talk about the Equity and Excellence for All agenda, where we're investing in AP Classes for All, we're investing in CTE instruction, we're investing in positive behavioral supports in our schools so they have environments where they feel safe and supported, when we're investing in culturally relevant, responsive education and really, really pushing our advanced literacies in our schools, these are all things that we know will engage students and make learning much more relevant to them. So I would say those are the kinds of things that if they aren't present lead students to be disinterested and find, you know, [inaudible] with their feet.

Mayor: Yeah, I just want a quick add on that. I'm trying to remember. I joined my local school board when we used to have them in 1999. I'm trying to remember back in those days and before what the dropout rate was. My memory is, at one point, in that kind of time in the '90s the dropout rate in the city, it was hovering around 20 percent and – I can't see Michelle, where's Michelle? Michelle is there, Michelle, do you – do you happen to know? 22 percent was in the 1990s?

Executive Director Michelle Paladino, Research Policy and Support: [Inaudible]

Mayor: Okay, so 22 percent at one point not so long ago in the city's history was considered tragically the normal dropout rate. As of – and we take every little change seriously, but the rate now is?

Executive Director Paladino: [Inaudible]

Mayor: 7.8 percent. So look, I will – everything the Chancellor says is right, but I want to emphasize the early child education piece. This has been statistically proven. You give young people early childhood education universally, you're going to see that number go down. Now remember the kids, we had in full-day pre-K for the first time, universally, that's only a few years ago. It's going to be awhile before they get to graduation age. But pre-K alone is going to reduce that dropout rate. 3-K, when it becomes universal plus pre-K, I think will drop it even more. So we want to get that early intense engagement that kids feel connected to education. I think that's going to be a big part of the equation. Yes?

Question: When the Class of 2019 was in eighth grade four years ago, 33 percent of them were proficient in ELA and 22 percent of them were proficient in math. So I'm just wondering what the explanation is for how kids who are so far behind in eighth grade, how did they make such a significant rise in high school? What's going on there?

Chancellor Carranza: Next time you see a teacher or a principal, thank them. Next time you see a guidance counselor or a social worker, thank them. Next time you see a parent driving or walking or bicycling their children to school, thank them. It's really about focus. It's really about the kinds of supports that we – I just mentioned in the previous question, but it really is about a strong focus on making sure students have what they need to be able to be successful. And then for us to be very strategic about how we align our resources. Our Equity and Excellence for All agenda does that to make sure that we're providing those opportunities for our students. And I don't mean that facetiously. Thank you, to our teachers, our principals, our social workers, our paraprofessionals, the people every day in the classroom making sure that students like you said, have what they need to be successful.

Mayor: Yeah, look, I think that's a very important way to look at the question. And I do think – I'm going to take what Richard said and take it a little bit different direction. There used to be a lot of conflict not so long ago – and again, this goes back to when I was in the school board and it goes back to even just a few years ago where there was a lot of conflict over education. There was a lot of fighting going on between labor and management. There was lots of things going on that I think were distracting from the mission. I think one of the things that I've tried to do, and I think Richard has done brilliantly, I think Carmen Farina did brilliantly, was bring peace to our school system, calm things down, get everyone working together, get everyone believing that it was a common mission again. And I think that's had a real positive effect. I mean the fact that we now know every day in every school that folks who are members of different labor unions are working more cooperatively than ever. That was part of the UFT contract to create a more cooperative decision making process in schools. That all adds up in my view.

So it is not surprising to me that there's consistent progress. I think the cool part of all this is where are we going? How far can we go? Because we already know a few things. We have, you know, the biggest and the best early childhood structure in the entire United States of America. And it's going to grow. And we have the most middle school and high school choice anywhere and the most extraordinary secondary education anywhere in the country and a lot of schools are visibly getting better. I think we are just scratching the surface of what New York City public schools can do. So I predict the day is coming where we don't even just meet the national average for something like graduation rates, but surpass it. That would've been unthinkable a generation ago. So I think it's all adding up. Yes?

Question: There's a much larger racial gap in terms of who gets an advanced diploma. Do you guys have any plans to address that?

Mayor: Oh yes. And AP for All is certainly a part of that. Go ahead.

Chancellor Carranza: Absolutely. So as the Mayor mentioned Advanced Placement for All is certainly part of that. We also know that as our schools do their work around tightening curriculum, aligning curriculum to standards, making sure that teachers have the professional development and the collaborative space to do collaboration, that is getting tighter and we are seeing growth in that rate. But the comment in terms of, you know, celebrate today and get back to work today, that's part of the back to work. We know that we're not comfortable where we are, but we are absolutely aligning our programmatic approach to our instructional approach to make gains in that area.

Mayor: And I think that question comes down to also, I want to be blunt about what used to be. I mean, you had high schools that had been in their communities for decades and decades and never seen an advanced placement course, even though there were tons of kids in those schools who are going to benefit from it if it was there but was never there. And it was just vast open inequity was accepted in the city all the time. And we got a long way to go. But that kind of example of just – and Linet is such a great, great inspirational example of that. You – here's a child of Dominican immigrants, as you said, your parents don't speak English, humble origins. How many AP courses did you take? Up to four. So, you know, that's like that kind of opportunity being there changes the trajectory for young people. If you do not provide that opportunity in the school, you're also sending a message that you don't value those young people and our school system honestly did not value those young people for a long time. So we're seeing something, I think from just the very presence of AP.

Question: [Inaudible] the Chancellor can answer in Spanish about the question has to do with those [inaudible]?

Chancellor Carranza: [Speaks in Spanish]

Mayor: Brief English version.

Chancellor Carranza: Sure. So the Cliffs Notes in Spanish, so you all should have studied Spanish. You would have known exactly what I'm talking about. So the question is a very good question about narrowing the achievement gap between Latino students and other students and what programs are working. We know that the Advanced Placement work that we have with our students – if a student doesn't necessarily speak English, it doesn't mean they can't do Advanced Placement Chemistry or Advanced Placement Physics. So the Advanced Placement actually helps with student acquisition of language. We also know that our English language learner students, which we refer to as our multilingual learner students, we saw an increase, in fact, they outperformed the state in terms of their graduation rate. We also know that the dropout rate for those groups is reducing. We also know that culturally relevant and appropriate curriculum and materials and what students read –

Mayor: Short version.

Chancellor Carranza: This is short.


All of those things are making a difference and we have a lot of work to do. But we're starting to see them tick that number up.

Mayor: Alright. Let's see. I've got two, go ahead.

Question: We do know from research that young people that have summer employment opportunities tend to stay with school longer. Unfortunately for a number of years across the country including New York City, that's been a lottery. Wouldn't full youth employment in the summertime help in the overall goals that you're on your way to achieving?

Mayor: Look, there's no, I cannot pretend for a moment that I don't wish – even before you got to youth employment, I would say, you know, the summer continuity academically, not because someone has fallen behind and needs "summer school" like we all came up with, but actually just enrichment and continuity over summer, you know, stretching out the school year in different ways would be very, very powerful. We're not there. We're not there financially or otherwise. Someday. I think that would be a powerful direction. We've tried with middle school kids to achieve some of that with having afterschool be a universal right. But summer is a challenge. As you'll hear in the budget part of the presentation, I don't think it's a challenge we can, we can overcome right away, but directionally, you're right.

Question: The State's Board of Regents kicked off a conversation about whether it will eliminate the Regents exams all together, which are the likely effect [inaudible] I'm wondering if either of you have a position on whether that's a good idea.

Chancellor Carranza: I think it's good to have the conversation. Let's see where the conversation goes. There's a lot of opinion about that particular topic. There are states that don't have a Regents exam. New York has one of the most rigorous sets of standards anywhere in the nation. So I think that it's a good conversation for us to have, but we don't have a position on that right now.

Mayor: I'm with him. Okay. Congratulations, Chancellor. Congratulations to everyone. Good day. Well done.


Mayor: Well, thank you, everyone, for giving us a chance to first talk about the very good news on the graduation rate. The good news for all of you now is that the budget presentation is going to be very brief, because it's a really straightforward situation and we'll have plenty of time for questions both on-topic and off-topic in this case, because, again, this is – after seven years of doing this, this is the briefest presentation I've ever had to make because the situation is very straightforward and our focus is in one place, and it is Albany, New York. So, we have never seen anything like this before in our dynamics with the State of New York. This is the seventh time I'm doing a budget, this is by far the largest state deficit we have ever confronted by a lot. And the fact that so much of the State's deficit is related to Medicaid is extremely worrisome.

Now, I want to say at the outset, Medicaid is a State-run program. Medicaid is run by the State of New York in every sense. The enrollment goals, the policies, every part of the management of the Medicaid program is run by the State of New York. The City of New York and all localities act as enrollment agents, and we have important work to do in that, but we do not control how the Medicaid program is run, the ideas behind it, the standards – that is all set by the State of New York. What we do know is that in a way we've never seen before, the State is now saying it has a $4 billion gap in terms of the Medicaid budget. And last week at the State of the State address, the Governor very specifically suggested that those expenses were the responsibility of localities. I found that confusing, mayors all over the state found that confusing, Democrats and Republicans, big cities, small towns, counties all over the State, county execs, everyone was confused by the idea that somehow localities were running a program that we don't run. We were confused by the notion that whatever new costs were being incurred was because of actions at the local level – that's just not how the program runs.

So, I want to start by being really, really clear. In fact, a very smart thing that the State government did and this Governor did a few years ago was to say since the State runs the Medicaid program and since costs were rising, the State agreed that it needed to take on additional responsibilities. And that was widely hailed across the State of New York as a smart fiscal move, otherwise a host a localities were simply not going to be able to pay for Medicaid.
Medicaid means health care for people – just want to take all the budget terminologies and everything away for a moment. This means people getting health care. If folks don't have insurance and don't have some other way to get health care, they go without. Families going without health care, it's an unacceptable situation. This state has actually done a lot to make sure that more and more people get health care. This city's done a lot and we thought we were all kind of moving along on the same track, and now we have a very different challenge. Now, I don't know where this is going. You don't know where this is going. We heard some different things from the Governor this week, but the proof will be in the pudding first with the Governor's budget address next week and then, ultimately, with the final budget, give or take, April 1st. But we do know that we've never seen this kind of State deficit. We've never seen this kind of threat to our Medicaid recipients. We've never seen this kind of threat to the Health and Hospitals Corporation, and I want to dwell there for a moment.

Remind people of this history that's just taken place over six years – when I came in office, Health and Hospitals was very, very near to bankruptcy. And there was an open dialogue in this city about the possibility that hospitals, public hospitals would have to close. I think a number of you remember that. There was an open dialogue about potential layoffs and that was going to hurt the whole city, but it's going to particularly hurt some of the neediest communities in this city. A lot of hard work, uh, went into fixing that at Health and Hospitals, at OMB – a whole lot of people worked on turning things around, closed a budget gap of more than a billion dollars, made some very tough decisions, reduced the level of administrative staffing, improved the operations, the collections, the billings, all sorts of things.

For the first time in a while, we can say Health and Hospitals is functioning quite well. The quality of the care is improving. The wait-time for appointments has gone down. More and more patients have a primary care doctor through Health and Hospitals. Health and Hospitals has played a leading role in getting more and more New Yorkers health insurance who didn't have it. That means, of course, the NYC Care initiative we announced a year ago, which has enrolled 12,000 people already. But Health and Hospitals has also been part of the bigger effort the City's made to get more and more people health insurance from other sources. And now, over the last few years, that amounts to 230,000 New Yorkers who have health insurance who didn't use to because the efforts of Health and Hospitals, the GetCoveredNYC campaign, a whole host of initiatives. So, I say all that to say, this was actually working. It has been working. This is what we want – an agency that was troubled has turned around. It's serving a lot more people. It's making sure they have insurance. Something very good is happening. This is all now threatened because of the potential cuts that are being talked about in Albany. Again, what does it mean humanly? Health and Hospitals – more and more, it's not just the emergency room, it's primary care, it's when a mom needs to take her kid to a pediatrician. More and more, they're going to Health and Hospitals' hospitals and clinics; it's a woman who needs screening for breast cancer; it's folks who are trying to get mental health care on an ongoing basis – finally, are getting that opportunity through Health and Hospitals that now is in grave danger because of what we're hearing from Albany.

So, I'm going to keep talking about this in very human terms and we have two things we're going to do about this situation. The first, is to fight any cuts. You will remember a few years ago, it was 2016, the Governor proposed Medicaid cuts. There was a very vibrant response from people all over New York City and in Albany, and those cuts were beaten back. Those were much, much smaller cuts than these, but they were beaten back. The second, and we've made this very clear, is we're happy to work with the State of New York to improve the operation of Medicaid, because, in fact, in partnership, we know right now we could save hundreds of millions of dollars. Some of you have seen, I'm sure, the letter that Commissioner Steve Banks sent to one of his counterparts in Albany, saying if you would just work with us, share information with us, we had a common effort, we could be saving a lot of money for you and for New York City, and the same model could work around the State and save money everywhere. Doesn't solve the whole problem, but it would help a whole lot. So, we stand ready to work on those reforms and those savings.

Now, I want to turn to another Stat- run operation that is also raising real concerns for us, that is the MTA. And I'll start by reminding everyone, because it gets, I think, left out of the MTA's own dialogue that, right now, in terms of MTA operations, 70 percent of the annual resources that the MTA depends on comes from the City government of New York City, from New York City residents, from our workforce, from our visitors. So, they're getting lots and lots of revenue out in New York City as we speak, but the MTA keeps coming back and demanding more money. And I have said very clearly, I am always willing to entertain additional support for the MTA, but I have to represent the people of this city and the taxpayers of this city. We are not going to keep handing over money unless the money's going to be used well. Now, I don't know any New Yorker – no New Yorker has come up in the about 20 years almost that I've been in public service – I have not had a New Yorker come up to me and say, gee, the MTA is so well-run; gee, the MTA is my model for an efficient modern organization; gee, I wish everyone else could be like the MTA. I have not heard those words. I appreciate that the MTA is doing some important work to try and turn around, I really do. And I've seen some of the results of that and we want to be in every way helpful when we see actual work that can get done. And I worked with the Governor – I was very proud to – last year on the plan to provide long-term funding, the congestion pricing and the other elements of a long-term funding plan that had never existed for the MTA.

So, there's some good news in all this, but what's not happening? There has not been a serious independent audit of the MTA's operations. There was an audit done, but it was superficial. It did not talk about how to fundamentally change the way the MTA operates, how to change the culture, how to do all the things that need to be done to break out of the mistakes of the past. So, we haven't seen that kind of audit and we need to before we fork over any money. We need to see the money that we have contributed previously actually spent. So, this may shock you. Some of you were here when we announced that we agreed to give $2.5 billion in capital money to the MTA in 2015. I am reporting to you today, we checked this morning – a substantial amount of that $2.5 billion that was agreed to in 2015 still has not been spent by the MTA. So, I find it strange they're asking for more if they haven't even spent what we gave them fully five years ago.

Thirdly, as I mentioned, we got to that great moment last April with a long-term funding plan. Draw on that money first before you ask more from the taxpayers of New York City. So, that's my simple message to the MTA. When it comes to the capital money they've asked for – the $3 billion more they've asked for – satisfy those basic conditions and we can all work together. I would further say that the MTA – again, people see clearly about the MTA, but there's this one example that keeps coming to mind – East Side Access. I asked my team yesterday for the exact numbers – 13 years and $7 billion over budget. So, we just have to be honest about something that still isn't working right and let's use the leverage of saying get it right and then we are very open to helping further. I also would say that about Access-A-Ride, also known as para-transit. The MTA has asked for $100 million, not in capital money, but in operating money, expense money – that's a lot of money in our budget – $100 million – for Access-A-Ride. And I'll tell you, I've spent a lot of time among my constituents who are livid about what's broken with Access-A-Ride to this day – that doesn't show up and it doesn't work for them. Again, I do see signs of improvement. I appreciate that. But we are not giving $100 million to a broken system. So, let's see a plan to fix Access-A-Ride, and then we can talk about how we can help financially.

So, that is to sum up the reality and the challenge is from Albany. Sometimes I talked to you about other challenges we face, sometimes we face multiple challenges. This time it's really straight forward – it's all coming from one place, the numbers are huge. Two big State-run pieces – the MTA and Medicaid – two big financial challenges. We're going to deal with both of them, but this is going to be the story that really determines what our City budget ultimately looks like.

So now, I'm going to talk to you about the preliminary budget at this moment in time. And the word preliminary is crucial in this case because this is how we start a process that will go on over the next six months, but it will be very deeply determined by what happens between now and April 1st. So, first I'm going to tell you the number and then in a moment I'm going to explain this number in relationship to where we left this story back in June when we had the adopted budget.

So, Fiscal Year '21 the preliminary expense budget for New York City is $95.3 billion. And this is a balanced budget – all new spending in this budget has been offset by new savings and we continue to maintain historic levels of reserves. I want to thank everyone who did the hard work of getting us to this point. Of course, the OMB Director Melanie Hartzog and her team; First Deputy Mayor Dean Fuleihan; Deputy Mayor for Operations Laura Anglin; Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Vicki Been; Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Raul Perea-Henze; Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives Phil Thompson; my Chief of Staff Emma Wolfe; my Senior Advisor Alison Hirsch; my Chief Policy Advisor Dom Williams; and our Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Lydon Sleeper – all of their teams, again, especially the OMB team, thank you for your hard work, getting us to this moment. And a special thanks to a Speaker Corey Johnson and Finance Chair Danny Dromm and their staffs for all the work we've been doing together over the last months.

So, how do we get to this point from last June when the budget was adopted last? So, the bottom-line on this, the growth has been about $2.5 billion. It is essentially all things we had to do, either labor costs or State mandates or other required actions. So, the biggest piece, almost two-thirds is the growth in labor and fringe benefits – that's about $1.6 billion. Now, that comes with a really important point that I'm proud to say at this moment – we can finally say after the labor deals from the last few weeks that 80 percent of the city workforce is under contract, some pending ratification, but we are confident, and that we now have with this budget action accounted for all labor costs going forward because we've established the patterns necessary to project all our labor costs and to fully fund them. Even while some other unions are in negotiation, the money is in the budget to account for those negotiations. So, that's the lion's share of the change here and I think the good news is that's a good change. It means stability. It means predictability. It means our workforce can feel secure to the rating agencies. Everyone else, they always want to know, can you accurately determine your expenses – that's now fixed. That's a big, big piece of what we need to do and will take us through these next couple of years. The next big piece, almost a quarter-billion dollars, is education mandates. Now again, a lot of times we get mandates from Albany, a lot of times they are well-intentioned, they rarely come with money attached. This is becoming a bigger and bigger problem for New York City. Unfortunately, we've experienced it many times from both Washington and Albany, but it's become more common in Albany. This is a challenge. So this, right here, quarter-billion dollars for more special education, support for our kids – and we do want to see more and more kids who need special education get it, but we do think it would be appropriate to get more support in the process from Albany; and charter school payments that are mandated by State law.

Next category is debt service – that is to accommodate the huge amount of capital spending that we need to do. And I remind you, that has a direct connection to the fact that you're not seeing, most importantly, a national infrastructure plan. You see not as much as we'd obviously like to see from Albany either, but, most importantly, you know, if we had a national infrastructure plan, we would not be spending so much of our own money on capital. There is no national infrastructure strategy, we have to do it, we have to pay the debt service. And then the most recent change, about $175 million for the criminal justice mandates, particularly Discovery and bail reform. I believe in these changes. I've said it many times, I commend the Legislature for their actions. I do believe that the Legislature should always, and the Governor should always include funding when they come up with these mandates. They did not. We are footing that bill. And whereas previously our head count would have been flat basically from June to now, headcount really wouldn't have moved hardly at all because of these mandates. We are going to have to add about 1,000 new employees through several different agencies to achieve what is required by the new State mandates.

In terms of savings to allow us to balance this budget – and the team at OMB did a great job, but I want to caution, they have been putting up very substantial savings numbers consistently. It is getting harder each time. It stands to reason that if you are trying to limit your own household budget, you might find some things early on that you felt you could do without, but every time you had to save more and more it gets harder. That's what's happening with the City of New York. So, since November, OMB identified $714 million in additional savings for both this fiscal year and next. And if you go back to June, that total now has become $1.2 billion – that's an extraordinary achievement, but, again, it's getting harder each time we have to do it. The good news on another front, the health care savings continue from our work with the Municipal Labor Council – committee, I should say. $1.6 billion in health care savings – this year, $1.9 billion projected for Fiscal '21 and every year thereafter. And we continue to work with MLC, looking for even more beyond that.

I'll talk for a second about reserves, and this has been an area I really want to commend the City Council. They've made it a consistent priority. There are a lot of legislatures in this world that do not focus on fiscal responsibility – they have, we have. We have the highest reserves in the history of New York City – $1.25 billion a year, over four years. That is a billion in the general reserve; capital stabilization reserve at a quarter-billion – $250 million. And then retiree health benefits trust fund is now at $4.68 billion. So, there's been a consistent commitment to protecting those reserves.

Okay. Now, we're about to end. This is normally in a budget presentation where you get into the juicy part where there's all sorts of wonderful new initiatives – that is not happening right now because of everything we talked about previously. We're just going to highlight very few things and then we're going to see where the world goes in the coming months. So, in the area of public safety, just two things I want to highlight. Vision Zero – this is continuing to be a major, major area of investment. And one of the biggest new pieces coming online now, Fourth Avenue, Brooklyn – major, major thoroughfare, an area where there's been a lot of problems. $98 million capital investment that will make Fourth Avenue safer for drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians alike. So, it's going to be a major redesign. One part of the bigger Vision Zero effort. And then, the second piece is to make really clear what was achieved in December – eight of our uniform services unions coming in agreeing to a labor deal that spans four – the four uniform agencies, police, fire, sanitation, correction – 16,000 members. Very, very important – that defined the uniform pattern. And once that uniform pattern is set, again, everything else in labor relations, everything else in the budget falls into place. So, the money to fund that uniform pattern is now added to this budget – $147 million. And again, that's for all the unions that did come to an agreement with us and for anyone who comes in and comes to an agreement within the pattern that is already accounted for in the budget and paid for. The combination of the approach to labor, the savings efforts, and the reserve efforts to keeping that high level reserve – all of these pieces have come together here to really protect us and to allow us to ensure that when we have some key investments to make, we're still able to do that.

So, the next is on resiliency. And everyone knows this is ongoing issue. I want to emphasize, you know, we're in the middle of a plan that's been going on for years, will go on for many more years. We're going to be working on resiliency as long as we're all here because of global warming. But the good news is, last year we had some very, very positive developments on key resiliency efforts – Lower Manhattan coastal resiliency, East Side coastal resiliency – and that'll be breaking ground this year – and on East Shore, Staten Island, the Staten Island levy project. So, all those have been moving forward or had major efforts already. Now, we're doing an investment that's going to help to speed up and ensure a bigger investment by the federal government. So, we're putting $33 million of dollars in capital for Rockaway Beach. This is obviously in terms of Sandy, this is one of the areas that took the biggest hit, where there was the most destruction. The boardwalk – the 5.5-mile boardwalk was the huge achievement. Everyone who was a part of should be very proud of making the Rockaways more resilient. But there's always been more to do. So now, we're going to get to this work. And that's our investment, $33 million, but it is part of a much bigger piece both for the beach and the bay that the Army Corps of engineers will be doing – that will be almost $600 million. And we're working very closely with the Army Corps on that.

So, to conclude, the City is being very careful at this moment, but we have our fiscal house in order. We are watching Albany carefully, but more importantly we're acting. We're going to join together with so many other people in this city and around the State who want to make sure that these Medicaid cuts are beat back, not just because of our budget, because of the human beings who would not get health care unless we stop these cuts. And we're going to work with the State open hand to find savings, find reforms so cuts can be adverted. That's where our focus will be over these coming weeks. And then we'll be back in April with the executive budget based on how everything plays out between now and then.

So, with that, that gives you the overview. I'm going to ask Melanie to come forward – and I think has the additional technical slides to go over, and then we will open up for questions on budget and then we'll open up for questions on other topics.

Melanie Hartzog –

Director Melanie Hartzog, Office of Management and Budget: Thank you, Mayor. So, I'm going to go through very briefly highlights and changes to the budget since November. And as the Mayor said, we do have a technical briefing so we can answer all your questions and my team is here to assist in that. So, the FY '21 preliminary budget is $95.3 billion. As the Mayor said, we are balanced in '20 and '21 Fiscal Years. And in this quarterly update, we closed a gap of $3 billion in Fiscal Year '21. Our out-year gaps are manageable – '22 Fiscal Year is $2.4 billion and the out-years for each are $2.7 billion. We are increasing our tax revenue forecast for Fiscal Year '20 to reflect a yearly growth rate of about 4.6 percent, adding $449 million in '20. And our Fiscal Year '21 estimate is cautious because we do see signs that the local and U S economies are slowing. So, our forecast reflects a 2 percent tax revenue growth for next fiscal year, adding $593 million.

As the Mayor said, we are achieving savings of $714 million across Fiscal Years '20 and '21, and the major sources are roughly $263 million – these are two-year combined roll up numbers, $263 million of which is spending rate estimates; $252 million is reimbursement rate estimates; and $141 million in debt service. Because we are nearly through the Fiscal Year '20, we are reducing reserves in the current year by $1.1 billion, of which $850 million is coming from the general reserve and $250 million is from the Capital Stabilization Reserve. And I just want to remind everybody, this is a routine adjustment we make at the preliminary budget in the current fiscal year.

Moving on to our all funds budget, you're looking at the five-year financial plan, which breaks out our federal, State, and City funds. Fiscal Year '21 all funds budget is $95.3 billion and the City's funded budget is $70.8 billion. You'll also note that the Fiscal Year '21 budget that we continue to maintain historic levels of reserves at $6 billion, $1 billion of which is in the general reserve, $250 million is in the Capital Stabilization Reserve, and $4.68 billion is in the Retiree Health Benefits Trust.

In closing, I want to thank all my staff for their hard work and remind everybody about the technical briefing.

Mayor: [Inaudible] the even more exciting technical briefing?

Director Hartzog: Yes.

Mayor: If you love this one, you'll love the technical briefing even more. All right, let's take questions – Katie?

Question: Have you spoken personally with Governor Cuomo about your concerns about the Medicaid cuts especially since State of the City or State of the State, sorry?

Mayor: No, my team and his team have been in dialogue constantly on this issue well before the State of the State. And, look, again we have a – we've said many times that we stand ready to work with them on savings, and that is not just because of this recent development. We are saying that before in some cases have been able to already do that, we want to do it a lot more. So, it's abundantly clear to everyone in Albany that we stand ready to help them with a challenge but that this kind of cut would devastating to the health care in this city and this state and we have to address it. Yes?

Question: [Inaudible] 1,000 new jobs to impellent the criminal justice reforms. Can you guys give any more detail on which agencies are [inaudible]?

Mayor: Yes we can.

Director Hartzog: So, it's spread across multiple agencies – NYPD at $24 million in Fiscal Year '20. The DA's at about $36 million. This also includes in digit defense provider. So, they're non-for-profits – about $10.3 million. OCME, $3.5 million – fire department $538,000 and the law department as well $328,000 and we can get you the head count for each of the agencies at the technical briefing.

Question: Can you talk about if the Governor's budget is going to come out next week, why not wait - last year you did the prelim-budget in February I believe. Why not wait till after the state's budget comes out to [inaudible] there's not as much—

Mayor: This is the legal day that is determined for the preliminary budget. And we set the day many weeks ago. We certainly did not expect what we heard in the State of the State. But again, whether it goes one first or the other, it's the same reality either way. This is not the setting of the budget, this is the opening round. I'm hopeful we'll all hear something better in the Governor's budget address. But the real action will be up at April 1st. Way back.

Question: Yeah, when you were in Albany you were asked about the Governor's remarks during the State of the State speech you [inaudible] from commenting on at that point. What makes you think the threat is more real now than it was a week ago?

Mayor: Look, on the day of the remarks I typically try to offer some space, and make sure that I have the full analysis. I was surprised by what I heard as I was listening. But I did want to check to make sure that everything was as I understood it to be. So, this is now having had a chance to understand the details having seen the consistent reaction of people around the state that are feeling what I feel. I want it to be very, very clear about how we analyze this. Anna?

Question: Can you discuss the possibly of a $500 million bailout for taxi drivers? I know that this is something that you have not been warm to before, but given that you have this huge unfunded mandate and a gap to close in the state budget, where does that idea stand as you know?

Mayor: Well, it's evolving in a productive way. So, I think everyone heard various proposals in previous months that were just straight up public bailouts. And I made it clear the City of New York could never reach those kind of numbers. I heard numbers in the billions, which again would come out of our expense funding. That was an impossibility. And even if you're talking about hundreds of millions of dollars we just don't have that kind of money available in public funds. Various conversations about whether there's some place elsewhere that could come from, the federal government historically has been able to do some of these things and they print money. But, this task force that was put together, working with the Council and with stakeholders has come up with a different kind of model which would be largely based on private financing. And the model has not been detailed yet. It's an idea. But it is the best idea I've heard so far. So you'll forgive for some devil in the details, you know "asterisks" to say let's see what now could be shaped up based on it, but at least it's a more productive idea that might get us somewhere. We want to help these taxi drivers. They've been through hell, we want to find a way to help them and their families. Look, I look back and I am pained that we had something that really would have helped in 2015 and that moment passed and I wish the Council had acted then. I commend the Council for acting in 2018. I've seen already that the minimum wage is helping, the CAPS are helping. But that could have been done earlier. But that being said, we all are trying to find some kind of solution that this is an idea that might actually offer a positive way forward. Marcia?

Question: Mr. Mayor, in the past you've talked about a Tale of Two Cities. Now, it seems you're talking about a tale of two budgets. The City budget which does not have a gap, and the State budget which has a huge gap. And I wonder if you think that that puts a target on the entire budget as something that the state could look for to cut. So in addition to Medicaid cuts, you could face cuts to aid to cities, aid to education, things like that. It's not necessary that they could limit the cuts to one area. So my question to you is, what is your game plan for trying to limit the cuts that could hit you in a lot of areas?

Mayor: Marcia, you're absolutely right. You've watched Albany for a while, so you know their tricks. The fact is we're very worried about Medicaid cuts, we're very worried about education cuts, we're very worried about Medicaid being saved on the back of education, and the bigger cuts being transferred over. There's lots of things to worry about. So first, we're saying in the spirt of cooperation, "hey, let's all work together, find savings, find reforms." We're all always up for working together to solve a problem. There's been many times in recent years where that's actually worked. And it's quiet behind the scenes efforts, but there's actually been a number of those times where the state worked with the city to save each other money or both money. So we're going to try and do that. But, as I mentioned in 2016 we had to fight back the proposed Medicaid cuts, the proposed cuts to CUNY, we did. Working with a lot of good stakeholders here and in Albany. So, we're going to go and we're going to fight these cuts. The X-Factor here of course is the legislature. Now, I would contend to you Marcia, the legislature has been very consistent to their credit. They understand the importance of New York City to this whole state, to the economy of the state, to the revenue of the state. They have been very fair – meaning, today's legislature. Andrea Stewart-Cousins as the Majority Leader in the Senate, Carl Heastie as the Speaker in the Assembly. Two people I have very close relationships with. But both of them really are consistent in their dealings with New York City. So, I am hopeful that they will believe that these cuts simply equal taking away health care from people who need it or that if it was transferred over to education, then you'd be taking away funding from kids who need better educations. I think they're going to not be satisfied with either of those alternatives

Question: I'd like to follow up, if I may. Instead, would you ask the legislature to consider – so that you wouldn't have to deal with these painful cuts to consider maybe some targeted tax hikes? Tax on the millionaires, the pied-�-terre tax. Taxes that you've talked about before in the past. Would you argue for tax increase as to help or hold harmless New York City at this time?

Mayor: Speake Heastie has spoken to this. And I'd say, the first thing I would do is everyone lets work gather to save money, lets everyone work together to figure out how to make the Medicaid program work better. The second thing I'd do is say yeah, there are some places where there's revenue that really has not been tapped and that's simple. The wealthy are not paying their fair share in taxes that is true in New York State that is true all over this country, not even close. Speaker Heastie has spoken to this. Of course that is another piece of the equation that should be looked at. What would set back New York State and New York City would be to cut health care, and cut education. Yes?

Question: Mr. Mayor, can we get back on the budget [inaudible] the education mandates of about a quarter of a billion dollars for education mandates. It says – could we get some specificity there as far as how much is for special-ed, how much is for charter schools, and what are those mandates?

Mayor: Melanie will go over it with you. But I just want to make a point clear. You know, obviously a state has very specific laws related to charter schools and what localities are obliged to do to fund charter schools, and then on special-ed there are clear mandates about providing special-ed to all families who need it. When it comes to special -ed what we know happened in this City for many, many years is many families didn't get what they needed. And we made a decision in the beginning and we worked closely with the legislature to say we actually are trying to get special-ed to the families who need it, we know it's going to cost us more money. We're going to do the counter intuitive thing, instead of making it hard for people to get something that costs money, we're going to try and make it parent friendly and make it work better. And that has been proceeding and that is costing a lot money but it is the right thing to do. Melanie will go over that.

Director Hartzog: Sure, so the growth from adoption to prelim for Fiscal Year '21, so same year comparison. Special education is $274 million, charter schools are $93 million, there's a couple of different off-sets there, things coming down for saving, and I can go through it with you in the briefing.

Mayor: Gloria?

Question: Mr. Mayor I want to go back to Marcia's point. And if you could talk a little bit more about what happened if you don't come to an agreement with the state about how you're going to find these savings to avert these Medicaid cuts?

Mayor: All I can say is – I think it is again from a human level, Gloria. I mean you're talking about a lot of families who need health care who just wouldn't get it. That's how I have to start. You're talking about right Health + Hospitals finally turned around. Clearly this would endanger the strength of Health + Hospitals. It would mean less personnel, it would mean longer wait times. It would mean a lot of things. We're not there yet, so I don't want to predict specifics. But [inaudible] a lot of money and it's a lot of people who depend on that money, and it's basic health care.

Question: [Inaudible] questions –

Mayor: Yeah?

Question: – about the 174, I believe it is, in savings. Or 714, rather. That's – are you doing anything similar this year asking City agencies to find more savings like you did last fiscal year?

Mayor: We are going to go back to agencies for more savings. Given what happened from November until now, which is pretty astounding the sheer dollar figure, we're structuring it a little bit differently this year. But the savings process will be ongoing. There's no question about it. We will come back at exec with a substantial amount of additional savings.

Question: [Inaudible] exact targets to [inaudible] –

Mayor: Not at this point but again interactive of what happens in the next few weeks.

Question: [Inaudible] 2020 we're having a national debate about universal health care. To what degree does the three card monte [inaudible] about health care have relevance in terms of the broader, national discussion we're having in earnest about health care [inaudible] –

Mayor: I don't know if I would call it a three card monte because we are actually in a pretty open, transparent place. We have now a specific policy of guaranteeing health care for all New Yorkers. That is being implemented. It started this year. Next year it will be in all five boroughs with NYC Care and obviously the expansion of Metro Plus. So I think our approach is very straightforward and our goal is universality and we actually think we have the tools to do it. Clearly, that's something New Yorkers should be proud of and believe in, in my view, and that New York State should be supporting and protecting in every way they can. We all want to get to the day where the national government actually creates a universal health care system. But we – we're now, in New York City, on the road to something we've never had previously but it could be derailed if we saw substantial Medicaid cuts.

Question: Just to follow up though [inaudible] Cuomo missing an opportunity for a presidential run to be the first state that had universal [inaudible] New York City –

Mayor: I liked your booming voice. This is not a setting to do a political analysis. What's clear is –

Question: [Inaudible] that's something that the progressive wing, they do support [inaudible] fighting for years.

Mayor: Clearly – look, progressives in this state and in this country want universal health care and no state has managed it. The federal government hasn't managed it. Even with what good has happened in Obamacare, the ultimate goal is still universal health care. But New York City over these next few years is going to get closer than anyone has ever gotten and that's really, really powerful what that could mean. That could be a great model for other places as we try and get to that next step. But it – you know, I'm worried that we have to protect it. Go ahead, way back there.

Question: So, my colleague, Brian, reported on the taxi bailout that some of the money would come from the government potentially, some portion of the money. So, are you willing to talk about $50 million, $100 million as part of the public private partnership on the taxi bailout?

Mayor: You won't be surprised that I am reticent to start offering dollar figures in the middle of a budget briefing where I'm concerned about the state of the overall budget but also where we don't even have a plan yet to respond to. So, I'm saying as a direction, this task force, this commission has come up with something really interesting that hasn't been on the table before.

Question: [Inaudible] idea of the City funding –

Mayor: I want to see a proposal and then we'll respond to it. I have got to be very careful because what I did not like was a whole lot of public funding because we just couldn't afford it. It's all going to be about the quality of the proposal and what level of exposure it has for the city. I'm open to a proposal. I think this is a healthy step forward. That's all I can say so far.

Question: And second question – are you discussing anything about like a hiring freeze or – if things do go sour in Albany –

Mayor: We've had a lot of reduction already in different agencies. Melanie can talk about it. A lot of the savings has been achieved already by telling agencies they could not fill lines that they previously had had. There's been different types of freezes already. So a number of savings have been achieved. As I said you're going to see more between now and exec. But depending on how things turn in Albany, we – look, there's some really intense things we would have to do if it was really bad. And again, what I think all New Yorkers don't want to see is their services cut, they don't want to see City workers no longer have their jobs, and we're not there yet but we have to always worry about what could happen if it was really, really big cuts. Do you want to speak about – anything else about – or did I cover it? I covered it, look at that. Who has not gone? Jeff?

Question: Mr. Mayor, in your new idea section – it was pretty limited as you noted yourself –

Mayor: Yes, indeed.

Question: [Inaudible] six years in, were there ideas that you had –

Mayor: Oh, yes.

Question: [Inaudible] wanted to [inaudible] situation in Albany?

Mayor: Right now it's not the time. We'll know more after next week. There's a lot on the agenda right now that's already underway that I've said, I think to you and to others, I want to protect all the big initiatives that are underway already including some of the things that you heard about the education piece of our gathering. But there's a lot more that is waiting to be announced if we believe we can make it work. But we got to see what happens certainly next week as a first step.

Question: [Inaudible] example?

Mayor: I cannot because that would be contradictory, wouldn't it. I'm not going to offer something that we want to announce if we believe there's resources until there's resources. Go ahead.

Question: What exactly is this $90 million for the – I'm sorry $100 million for the reworking on 4th Ave [inaudible]?

Mayor: The Vision Zero piece?

Question: Yes.

Mayor: Melanie or whoever you choose, Melanie, want to speak to that? Vision Zero, 4th Avenue in Brooklyn.

Director Hartzog: It's largely for the street reconstruction and putting up various pedestrian walkways as part – in the middle of it. I think there's a lot of detail. My staff just handed me an entire page. I'm happy to talk more about it at the technical briefing to give you a better sense of it.

Question: [Inaudible] slightly related topic [inaudible] budget. What do you think of the Governor constantly [inaudible] about how you run the City and eyeing your budget to build his?

Mayor: I rise above it. Bridget?

Question: Mr. Mayor, two [inaudible] questions. One, you talked about the savings program. One of the big issues in your preliminary budget last year was a PEG program. So, to be clear there is no PEG at this point, right?

Mayor: No, I want you to hear what I – there is not. Absolutely. To be clear, no. To be also clear, what we have this year that we hadn't had in the past was just a huge amount of savings that had to be achieved between the November plan and now. And I want to just remind everyone, that's a really brief time frame and that's basically in two months Melanie and her team had to find, you know, $700 million in savings because of those mandates from the State, because of the labor deal. All of these things that are us keeping the City of New York moving forward and dealing with our day to day needs. So, last time we came in and said here's a bunch of things we want to do to make savings happen by the exec, she went and got those savings before the preliminary but there has to be even more now. We're structuring it, a different approach this time, but there's definitely more savings coming.

Question: [Inaudible] about three percent but as Melanie was saying, the revenues are only estimated to rise about two percent. So, does that mean our reserves have gone down a little? Where's the –

Mayor: No, reserves are stable – and Melanie can sort of talk to you about how all the balances are struck. Obviously, real savings is one of the key ways you make that come together. You'll say it more eloquently that I can.

Director Hartzog: It's a combination of both revenue coming in and yes, we have a cautious forecast for Fiscal Year '21 and also our aggressive savings plan.

Question: [Inaudible] not changed since last year at all?

Director Hartzog: The reserve number has not changed, as I told you in my presentation – and we can pull the slide back up and we can show you. The Fiscal Year '21 reserves are the same levels – total, $6 billion.

Mayor: Okay, anyone who has not gone yet? Anyone who has not gone? Yes?

Question: [Inaudible] City Council [inaudible] –

Mayor: Yes, amen.

Question: [Inaudible]

Mayor: There's a big smile.

Question: [Inaudible] how much could the City save over what period of time and what projects [inaudible]?

Director Hartzog: So, we estimate that it's about six percent overall for a number of projects. It's about $300 million. As you know we would be very cautious about that and not actually take it down in the capital budget until we start the process and actually see what the projects yield in terms of cost and then we would reflect those changes.

Mayor: Who has not gone? Yes?

Question: It looks to me like the largest bucket of savings for the Education Department is about $39 million in savings related to the ATR pool. I'm wondering if you can offer some details on where that [inaudible] force placing educators in schools or is it from – I know that the City was subsidizing those salaries for ATR teachers [inaudible] that actually hire [inaudible]?

Director Hartzog: Sure, it's not forced placing, to be clear. It's actually maximizing teachers who are in the ATR pool and getting them deployed to schools where they are most needed. And right now – I'm happy to report by the way that we are 150 to 200 lower than the lowest year on record which was two years ago in terms of our ATR pool. So, that means we're actually maximizing teachers who are there who can be deployed and keeping that pool low, and that results in savings because you're not actually hiring new teachers.

Mayor: So, let me speak to that for a second because it's been an obsession of mine. I've had a lot of meetings about the ATR pool, I assure you. So, this has always driven me crazy that there was not a better approach. What has been done – I give the team at DOE and OMB a lot of credit – is we have driven down the ATR pool and we will drive it down further. So, this is now a new reality. Where perfectly capable teachers who are going into the ATR pool when they didn't even need to go into the ATR pool, that has been changed so that teachers – if something changes in their school and they need a new opportunity, they are being moved directly to the new opportunity. So, it is a much more streamlined system, has greatly reduced the ATR pool. It will go down further.

Question: [Inaudible]

Mayor: What's the number today? Do we have it? No, the total number of people in the ATR pool right now? 725.

Question: [Inaudible] I know Comptroller Stringer spoke earlier to reporters cautioning that he wishes the City would set aside more money to reserves and he said he'd like to see the reserves out back to pre-de Blasio era numbers. I'm just curious if you knew what that was?

Mayor: Well, I'm confused since we have the all-time highest reserves the city has ever had.

Question: So was I [inaudible].

Mayor: Less.


We will get to you the exact details. I would certainly hear – and don't remember any – I mean the Council, the Public Advocate, I don't remember any reserves like this but we'll give you all the history. Gloria?

Question: [Inaudible] realize that you're saying you can't talk about some of your big ideas before you know more about the State budget but what should New Yorkers take away from this budget as it pertains to what your priorities are for this coming year? I mean we have a homelessness crisis that's continuing, an affordability crisis, a pedestrian fatality issue – so, what should they take away from this budget that you are choosing to prioritize this year when you still [inaudible] –

Mayor: Right, New Yorkers, I think, are very, very aware of the big approaches that are being taken meaning Vision Zero – you know we've announced a series of actions on Vision Zero in the last few months and obviously worked with the Council on the Streets Plan. These things don't always happen just exactly the day the budget is announced. A lot of them happened before. So, there's been major, major changes and improvements to Vision Zero in just the last few months.

On homelessness, just a few weeks ago I announced the Journey Home plan which I've talked to a lot of people around this city and they found it very, very important that this city has now for the first time in its history said we will end long-term homelessness and we have an actual strategy that we've proven works. So, what I find is that people I talk to all over the city, they hear those new directions, they understand them. Right now we're in a pause because of what we see happening in Albany. This budget is about keeping this city running and making sure our house is in order, our finances are stable. We're taking care of ourselves here in this budget.

We are dealing with the fact that one, we're paying the bills we get from Albany more and more and we have sustained cuts previously in every recent budget from Albany on top of that. So that unfortunately creates a reality where maintaining actually is a really, really valuable thing. And there will be opportunities coming up as the budget picture clarifies to define the next big pieces of the agenda. But this is not that day. This is a day to say let's just make sure our finances are strong and the city is stable.

Question: [Inaudible] MTA. You talked about these two big entities that are [inaudible] State and MTA and Medicaid and how you don't want to keep giving money to them if they are not showing that they can manage it properly. But is there anything that you can do in order to get some leverage if you do end up giving them more money for the MTA, more – something that could be done about the amount of [inaudible] how Medicaid is being administered? I mean, is that an negotiation [inaudible] –

Mayor: Look, first of all on Medicaid, we really believe we can all work together to save a lot of money. And we've been trying to do that and sometimes it worked, sometimes it has not worked and there wasn't the kind of focus we want to see like on the proposals that Steve Banks put forward. But, you know, right now, the conversations have been going on weeks and weeks, and I'm still hopeful that could yield a lot of money and be the good for everyone. I think the two situations are different.

The MTA – they're both run by the State, yes, but the MTA has been in a situation where, you know, there's been constant demand without the core problems being addressed. So, I'm saying, look, I'm nobody's fool. I'm not going to keep sending the taxpayers' money over until you address these problems. Everyone can see them. But at the same time, to your point about, do you try and achieve you know some back and forth in every deal, yeah, and I think April 1st is a great example of that. We had real things we wanted to see addressed in that plan that was passed in Albany but it was also important to that State that New York City be a part of the plan and support it. The Governor and I had very productive conversations and our teams did. We came up with the ten principles. We actually worked together and got the plan passed. It's going to happen. That's going to be, you know, I think revolutionary for the future of the MTA that there's now going to be permanent funding.

So, yeah, we do that back and forth but my point to the MTA is look, we're not asking much, come on, do a real audit, spend the money we already gave you, spend the congestion pricing money and all that first, and then we stand ready to help when we see things are real.

Question: If there's such uncertainty coming from Albany, why not mandate a PEG program again this year?

Mayor: Because it's a very fair question but again I'm emphasizing to you just – the savings now have gotten so consistent as an approach. I think a lot of times we think about a PEG program as sort of an exceptional act, an emergency act, and we're kind of in an ongoing state of needing to find savings. We don't have a choice anymore. I mean the – a lot of new bills suddenly showed up. Now, some of them, we're really happy about. We're thrilled we have this labor deal. We weren't sure when it was going to happen. We're thrilled we have it. We're less thrilled about major new spending being mandated from Albany even if we agree with the underlying intent. So, we are going to be saving and saving and saving but if you look at the magnitude of the cuts in the last few months, the savings in the last few months, it's consistent with what we would have done had we done a PEG.

Question: It seems like savings down from this time last year? I think it was around a billion and now it's at $714 billion.

Mayor: Again, I'll let Melanie speak to it, but I want to remind you guys that just try and let me allow, allow me to be visual. So in our savings keeps going up and each time you go up it is harder. Meanwhile, Albany aid goes down, down, down, down. We got every single year we're being cut $100 million here, $200 million there, whatever it is, and then the unfunded mandates on top of it. So this equation gets harder with every passing year. You're, you're seeing caution if you think, wow, this is really cautious. You're right, because we've, we've been dealing with all of these trends. We believe there's a way out of it that we believe there's a positive way forward, but we're very, very conscious and sober about that reality. But to year's history question, Melanie, and then you can also tell them about the history of reserves.

Director Hartzog: So, yes, I'm at prelim of last year we were at a billion over the two years. Two things were driving that we had a onetime payment from H + H. They had owed the city money, back in Fiscal Year '15 and '16 for retiree health benefits and – David is at Med [inaudible] as well, or just the retiree? It was both. And because they were in such a good cash condition and we had the transformation plan in place, they were able to actually repay the city, those funds. And the other thing was debt service. As you know, this depends on what we go forward with our refundings. So depends on the timing of when we do that. Did you prelim –

Mayor: History of reserves.

Director Hartzog: History of reserves.

Mayor: Everyone is on the edge of their seat Mel.

Director Hartzog: So, Bloomberg Fiscal Year '14 adopted budget, the reserve was $813 million. the Fiscal Year '15 preliminary budget was $1.96 billion. And now as we said, Fiscal Year '21 preliminary is $5.93 billion.

Question: But wasn't the Bloomberg reserves a larger percentage of the budget at the time than the percentage of what the reserves are now, the bigger budget we have?

Director Hartzog: I'd – we'd have to get that to you, but I think the point of it is that we actually have built up the reserves. As the Mayor said, we continue to have a savings program with each plan and we also continue to be cautious with our estimates on our revenue forecast.

Mayor: Yeah. I want to just tell you as the guy who has to live with the results, I don't, I of course you could ask percentage of budget, but I go with if a crisis hit, how long could we keep things going? And when I look at these kinds of numbers, it gives me a lot of comfort on behalf of all New Yorkers that this is the kind of reserves that really would protect us. And the thing we're most worried about always is an economic crisis where it's not just about, you know, a fight you can wage in Albany and hopefully win, but something where it's beyond all of our reach. But these are really substantial reserves. I also credit the Council every year. Every year they want to do more. So we'll have that conversation. We're going to go to off topic in a moment. Let me take a few more, Marcia. Okay. So I see on budget, four and that's it. And we'll go off topic. Go ahead, Gloria.

Question: Mr. Mayor, I think I know what you're going to say, but—

Mayor: Do you want to say it for me? You could speed this whole process up.

Question: Do you have upcoming news on the property tax commission report.

Mayor: I do.

Question:  When can we –

Mayor: I have it right here, no. The, the report is being worked on as we speak. It will be out in – this month. So literally we got about two weeks left to this month, so it will be out in January. The preliminary report will very clearly state the kinds of approaches that will be needed to address the inequities in our property tax system. It will also, I'm going to say this probably a hundred times over the next two years, works from the assumption of being revenue neutral, which is the mandate that the council and I both gave to the members of the commission. And once that preliminary report is out, there's going to be a very public process that begins that will lead us to a legislation. Yes?

Question: Another big chunk of education department savings is coming from professional development. I'm just wondering if you can speak to like what PD's are being cut?

Director Hartzog: I don't have the specific PDs on that. We can get it to you with the technical briefing, but I think the point is we've been really working with Department of Education to see where there is overlap in their professional development. Meaning how can they essentially take advantage of existing trainings that they have instead of continuing to do either contracted out or use resources within meaning their own staff so we can get you the answers on that at the technical briefing.

Question: There is implicit bias training which has been a big question, is that on the table?

Director Hartzog: No, it is not. No. It is funded. Yes.

Mayor: Yes, that is funded. For sure.

Question: What is the total amount of professional development? That means you're finding like $31 million in savings.

Mayor: You have it now or do you want to do it in the next piece?

Director Hartzog: We should do it in the next piece.

Mayor: Let her do that in the technical [inaudible].

Question: Mr. Mayor, you said they there's more initiatives to be announced if you can make it work. But I want to understand even as Albany were to impose no cuts on the city, how, how would you afford those initiatives? Where, where would you get funding?

Mayor: We would to be able to put them forward. We'd have to believe there was going to be revenue to back them. Just like everything else. Yeah, go ahead.

Question: But I guess you made it sound like it was the uncertainty in Albany that's making you not –

Mayor: Okay. I'll be very reasoned here. Fact, biggest state deficit we've had in seven years by a lot. Fact, specific focus on Medicaid, which exposes us to the tune of $2 billion and we don't know where it's going. I am not going to be issuing a whole lot of grand new ideas until I have some more definition. As early as next week hopefully we start to get better definition. But that's, that's the balance we have to strike.

Question: Sort of a recurring theme in your discussions about the MTA has been in need for additional oversight improvements and operation. The city lacks two of its board members. When are you going to get them?

Mayor: We hope that that will be acted on very shortly. There's been a lot of back and forth. I'm not going to get into detail. I only say, you know, we want those seats filled and a matter of weeks hopefully. And we think that can be done.

Question: And if it's not?

Mayor: Let's not worry about hypotheticals, my all-time favorite statement. Okay. Last call on budget and non-budget, Marcia.

Question: Mr. Mayor, there's an abandoned property at 4401 4401 Clarendon Rd in East Flatbush that's been sitting there for years, no one can find the owner.

Mayor: Clarendon.

Question: What?

Mayor: I said Clarendon. I'm a Brooklynite – Clarendon.

Question: Sorry, I come from Massachusetts.

Mayor: I'm a convert.

Question: They've wrapped up more than 232 violations. They owe more than $300,000 in fines between the Department of Buildings and the Department of Sanitation. Now, the neighbors who live in adjacent [inaudible] are upset because they feel anymore they can't get anything done. But they also can't sell their house because it's an attached house. So their house is fine, but the attached house is abandoned and horrible. So what can be done and can the City step in to help these people? One of the people is a teacher and the other one works at Ground Zero and has Ground Zero cancer.

Mayor: Oh my God, Marcia, sincerely thank you for alerting me to this. We got to help them. We got to help them because they are people who have served the city. We got to help them because they should not be held liable for whatever their neighbor did. And we got to help them because if the neighbor property was doing this much damage to the rest of the community, it has to be addressed. I'll have the Buildings Commissioner follow up on it immediately. Yes?

Question: I have two questions. So first I, Chancellor Carranza has been pushing for a repeal of [inaudible] –

Mayor: I'm sorry for?

Question: Overkill [inaudible] –

Mayor: You'll forgive me. I try and always be, ah, go ahead. Thank you. I have been informed now, go ahead.

Question: Assembly member [inaudible] has been pushing that as well. Is that something you're going to be pushing for this session and what kind of like plan will you be pushing for?

Mayor: I don't have a big revelation for you here. We're going to have a lot more to say in the coming weeks on our future vision for education. Clearly, you know what I feel about the specialized schools and I'm looking for a solution. So, you know, again, I don't want to preempt other things that we're going to say. The status quo doesn't work that that much I know for sure. So we're going to be looking for solutions.

Question: And then on [inaudible] report a January 15th deadline was set for schools to get back to the DOE with the timeline for next steps. Can you say anything about –

Mayor: I don't have that update, but we'll get to that to you later today. Yes?

Question: Can you talk a little bit about your stance on bail reform? I think you've mentioned that you want judges to have more discretion and do you feel like this puts you at odds with some of your progressive allies like Carl Heastie who I think doesn't share that assessment that you [inaudible]?

Mayor: I think I have gone through in these last weeks a better understanding of where I think some of the disconnect is for a lot of people on this issue. So I want to just take a moment to speak to that. Speaker Heastie and I are very much united in general and specifically on the fact that bail reform was absolutely necessary, you know, a lot of injustice was done. A lot of people were held behind bars only because they couldn't afford a small amount of bail. That was inhumane, that was not good for keeping people away from a life of crime. That was not good for the taxpayers. It was not good. So the bail reform, absolutely achieved something we needed. There's an entirely separate question and I, again, I wish I had been able to figure out the need to sort of separate this and clarify this previously, but no time like the present. So I stood here, I believe it was 2015 but you all can check, because it was talking to all of you. After the tragedy of the killing of officer Randolph Holder and Officer Holder was assassinated by an individual who could not be held despite a very substantial record of violence and violating court instructions and evident mental health challenges could not be held because he was not a flight risk. And what I've heard from a judges, again, I point to a number of judges, I have a dialogue with them in the interviews before I decide on the appointments, is that this is a constant frustration that goes back many, many years. So again, I raised this issue publicly years ago bluntly at a point where bail reform was not possible in Albany. It was a different State Senate that was never going to do bail reform. Judicial discretion is a standalone issue and it should be understood as a standalone issue. If a judge has no choice but to only address flight risk and someone is not a flight risk and their attorney can say, look, this individual shown up in court before or whatever it is. And they can't plausibly argue flight risk as a reason to hold someone in, but someone is a threat to their neighbors and that can be proven with fact that has to be addressable by a judge. And that should not be done lightly. I think there should be very tight standards. I think anyone who is concerned about potential bias, well bias has pervaded the American judicial system. So I'm concerned about bias too. I don't want to see that obviously. And you know there should be very clear triggers and checks and balances, but I don't understand how for years and years and years our judges have not had more flexibility in cases that presented the greatest threat. And I think that's something we could all unite around, finding a way to address that.

Question: Just to quickly follow up, you sort of addressed this a little bit, but what would you say to critics who think you're too like deferential to NYPD and the police?

Mayor: I came here to change policing in New York City and we have changed policing in New York City and we're going to change it more. And you'll hear a lot more on this in the coming weeks, certainly going to be talking about this at State of the City. But I think you've already heard from Commissioner Shea some very clear indicators of a new direction. You know, critics come with the job but, you know, the whole point, one of the number one things I came here to do was to break what I thought was a horrible status quo in this city where police and communities were divided and we were actually being made less safe. And a whole host of reforms were available that were ignored. And one by one, we've been implementing those reforms and they work. So, no, I think, the question is always how do you move the maximum change that will actually work and stick and keep people safe at the same time. And I really – I think the NYPD is done an amazing job making these changes and making them quickly. But I think Dermot Shea is going to take us to a very different place.


Question: [Inaudible] two years back I know you know FDNY EMT Yadira Arroyo was killed allegedly by a man who was homeless and was supposed to be taking drugs. His father had gone to the police department –

Mayor: You mean medication?

Question: Yes [inaudible] prior to that, we do these stories all the time where part of this national consensus that we've had about institutionalizing [inaudible] mentally ill goes back decades. [Inaudible] when you talk to [inaudible] Commissioner Kelly, Commissioner O'Neill, he mentioned that there's now the severely mentally ill people are being warehoused in public libraries and in jails and in transit systems across the United States. Is it not time to have some other kind of discussion that integrates his criminal justice issue with what really is a cruel treatment of severely mentally ill who are now left to their own devices.

Mayor: Well look, you know, you remember how all this began in large measure with deinstitutionalization, with no plan, with no concern for the human beings involved and thousands and thousands of people were just dumped on the streets because the mental care institutions were not humane and all the promises that were made about giving people an alternative never happened. So, that's how this very horrible, you know, trend started. But now, I think we're trying to do something profoundly different. I'll state the obvious if you said, hey, you have a magic wand, how do you solve that part of the crisis? I would say, give me a national health care system that treats mental health the same way it treats physical health, and we would be in an entirely different place. If mental health care were available on a very broad scale and it was affordable and accessible and everyone knew how to get it, we'd be having an entirely different discussion. We're trying with one hand tied behind our back to come up with the next best thing, guaranteed health care system without the benefits of a national structure. But still, we believe we can build it over the next few years. And through Thrive, trying to constantly increase access to mental health facilitation of people getting treatment, you know, de-stigmatizing, you know, making mental health part of what every agency works on. We're trying with imperfect tools to get somewhere. What I do know is there's particular cases and, you know, a very important review was done a few months ago by Chief Monaghan and Commissioner Barbot that makes very clear that agencies have never worked together. They don't really communicate on this stuff. They don't really understand how to make sense of it. So now, we're ordering an entirely different relationship between all of them. And we're – look, we don't control the courts, don't control the DA's, but we work with them constantly. But this is going to take courts, DA's, Police Department, health care agencies and social service agencies all talking to each other all the time case by case, literally person by person. We are trying to engineer that now. It's never existed. I think that would avoid some of these tragedies. I hope it would avoid all of these tragedies, but that's what we're trying to build now. I think we'll get somewhere. I think we all shouldn't kid ourselves though, it is the absence of affordable, universal health care. That's really the basis of this crisis.

Okay, let's see a few more before we go. Yes?

Question: There was an analysis published today that found that of the 36 mandatory inclusionary housing sites so far underway, all of them have been developed with substantial subsidies. I'm wondering, the whole premise of the program was to have market-rate rents basically subsidize the creation of affordable units. Can you call it a success if all of those sites are also getting substantial funds?

Mayor: You're referring to the report –

Question: [Inaudible] Manhattan Institute, but the numbers are the numbers. So, I was –

Mayor: Whoa, whoa, whoa – that was a highly challengeable statement.

Question: [Inaudible]

Mayor: I respect her. But the Manhattan Institute is never objective. They are ideologically driven, that doesn't make them wrong all the time, I'm just saying start with the fact that they do have an ax to grind. We believe their numbers are faulty, that they ignored a whole lot of important facts. I will have the Deputy Mayor and their team – do you want to say something now, or – if you're ready, you can. Again, I'm saying, I think, we object the entire analysis that it misrepresented the program, the number of units coming on, how they're coming on, etcetera. So, we can get you more on that but I'm not going to accept that the numbers are accurate. Mandatory inclusionary housing does work because it's never been, it's going to achieve everything, but it achieves this essential reality of agreeing that there's going to be a certain number of affordable apartments and getting a lot of private money to help make them happen, then they wouldn't happen if it wasn't there. So, I believe the concept is not only correct, it has been proven to work, but we will show you our counter to their numbers.

Last call – I'm sorry [inaudible] you're establishing the far right-wing of the group here.


Question: [Inaudible] no comment on that. But this is a year where there will be a lot of elections – four in certain parts of the city. Last year you made a major push to ensure that there were enough poll sites. You know, we did a look at some of the places that the Board of Elections asked to be a poll site and sent a note back saying, no, can't do it, don't pick us, including some very large cultural institutions. Altogether, some of the institutions that the city forgoes about $600 million in property tax revenue from, and that's before you even start looking at any City grants or State money that they get. So, my question first is, do you think that there is some institutional civic duty that these entities have?

Mayor: Sure. I'm glad you're raising it because look, we waited so long for early voting. I mean, you know, this is – this one that seems to drive me crazy – the state that we all like to think we're so special, except why were we so backwards for so long? Right? We finally got early voting after all sorts of States, big and small, all over country, red and blue, had it for a long, long time. Well, guess what? If you're going to have early voting, you have to find a place to do it. In fact, I wanted the Board of Elections to choose more places than they did choose ultimately. We made progress – I don't think they still went as far as they could have. We got real issues to resolve. There's been some legitimate concerns about schools, for example, where there was more disruption than people hoped for. And I think your point is very fair, if we're funding an organization, they should bend over backwards to work with us. I will only tell you this because I don't know the details – I'll get a briefing on it and I'll be happy to respond to you more fully in the next couple of days. But to your core question, yeah, of course. I want everyone to, you know, stretch as far as they can to make this work. We're talking about the most consequential presidential election – if I said in our lifetimes, I don't think I'd be overstating it – but certainly in many years. We want everyone to participate. There's a whole lot of other offices on the ballot. Yeah, it's very important that there be full participation. You can only do that if you have sites that actually work. So, we're going to be putting a lot of energy into trying to do our share, Board of Elections has to do their share

Question: [Inaudible] the briefing. But current election law does say that if a site were to object, that you could withhold those benefits, potentially claw back property tax abatements or withhold grants. Is that something the City would consider?

Mayor: Look, you know, this is a brand new reality. Obviously, we would like to pursue the path of peace with organizations that we care about a lot, cultural organizations and our schools. You know, I want to see if we can figure out something that address – there's real valid concern sometimes people raise, how do we address those concerns? And again, I wish I controlled the Board of Elections and we could make it more efficient. We don't, but we can at least negotiate with them. So, I'm aware of the fact you raised, that's not my first choice. I think we can resolve this more amicably.

Alright, everybody. Thank you very much.

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