NYC lawmakers pitch reversing Mayor Adams’ planned budget cuts to 3-K, schools and more

The New York City Council is pushing for Mayor Eric Adams’ administration to reverse more than $1 billion in planned budget cuts to 3K, schools, libraries and other city services, claiming an extra $6 billion is available from a variety of sources the administration didn’t account for.

“Tourism is back, jobs are back and tax revenues continue to outpace projections, even as the rest of the state sputters,” said Councilmember Justin Brannan, a South Brooklyn representative who chairs the Council’s finance committee, at a press conference on Monday. “The people who declared New York City dead and buried have been busy editing their epitaph.”

Council leaders’ latest assertions contradicted those Adams made in January, when he proposed an initial $109 billion spending plan for the city’s next fiscal year that called for steep cuts to essential services, including education and sanitation. The mayor said the reductions planned for the fiscal year beginning in July were necessary due to the expiration of federal pandemic aid and the city’s rising costs for migrant care. His administration’s cuts to date have been widely unpopular with voters, polls show.

Now, councilmembers are pitching a combined $1.63 billion in restored cuts to 3K and child care services as well as programs aimed at reducing recidivism and supporting mental health, public safety, libraries and parks. The mayor — whose office didn’t immediately comment on the Council’s plan — will get to review it and propose changes ahead of budget negotiations in May and June.

“We heard from New Yorkers who shared what they need to stay in the city and build their legacies here,” Speaker Adrienne Adams said, echoing comments she made during her State of the City address last month about the city’s affordability crisis. “Together with housing, early childhood education has risen to the top for working- and middle-class families.”

“We have demonstrated our commitment to advancing a budget that is not only fiscally balanced but also meets the city’s needs to protect essential services and start a path towards stability for our city,” she added.

In addition to the funding restorations, councilmembers are proposing setting aside nearly $3 billion for what they call “underbudgeted costs” in the mayor’s preliminary spending plan and another $500 million for the city’s rainy-day reserves. They said this would leave a surplus of at least $1 billion for other potential needs.

According to the Council, the more than $6 billion it identified in available funds came from more than $3 billion in higher-than-forecast tax revenues, $2 billion in potential underspending and $550 million in current in-year reserves.

Advocacy groups focused on early childhood development and education were quick to praise the Council’s plan.

In a statement, the organization New Yorkers United for Childcare applauded the proposed restoration of $170 million for seats in the city’s 3-K and universal pre-K programs and an additional $10 million for advertising the programs, which have recorded varying levels of enrollment across the city.

“They are really fighting for working families and have listened to their concerns,” the group’s executive director Rebecca Bailin told Gothamist. “Since entering office, the mayor has made a total of $400 million in cuts to pre-K and 3-K, according to the [city’s Independent Budget Office]. He has made it clear that universal free childcare is not his priority.”

But the Citizens Budget Commission, a nonprofit think tank, said it had concerns about how much money the city truly has to spend, even as it lauded the Council’s proposal to bolster the rainy-day fund and typically underbudgeted areas.

“Our concern is that the resources they identify — the additional tax revenues and underspending from vacant positions — are both optimistic,” said Ana Champeny, CBC’s vice president for research.

This is a developing story and may be updated.

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