Mayor Adams’ first executive budget is a solid fiscal blueprint for this perilous moment, but it can be made stronger still.
With the promise of a pandemic state of emergency in the rear-view mirror, New Yorkers have good cause to hope that this will be the last crisis for a while. Unfortunately, that’s never a guarantee, and should we have to break the proverbial municipal piggy bank for some other calamity, it’s good to know that we’ll find $6.3 billion in so-called rainy day reserves, as committed in Adams’ newest budget proposal, It’s good but not good enough, falling under what experts recommend.
Some additional deposits could have come from finding additional efficiencies in operational spending, such as better utilizing a chronically absent and mismanaged correction workforce instead of adding new officers. Other workforce increases, which total about 3,000 in the budget, are negating some of the headcount reductions that the mayor had hoped to achieve with his Program to Eliminate the Gap, which had identified redundant positions across city agencies. You can have more money for programs or overhead, but not both.
Strategic increases in public safety spending, such as the mayor’s new anti-gun-violence initiatives, are wise to beat back increasing crime, but a good chunk of the additional $182 million in increased NYPD spending is going to overtime — a funding suck that could be ameliorated by aggressive moves to fill administrative positions with civilian personnel, among other things.
Escalating social spending like the development of more Safe Haven beds and supportive housing for New Yorkers at risk of homelessness is vital; thousands of desperate individuals need places other than the street to go and get services. An expanded summer youth employment program will help address the upstream causes of crime and spark a beleaguered economy.
Going forward, the mayor should take care not to give in to the guiles of big federal money, which cannot be used to sustain recurring expenditures. Instead, the city should use the federal dollars for their intended recovery purposes.