Layoffs, union savings proposed in NYC budget

NEW YORK - (AP) - New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed arange of painful cuts to city services in his budget plan Thursday,including layoffs he said are unavoidable because it is getting"harder and harder" to trim expenses.

Bloomberg outlined his vision for the city's fiscal 2011 budget,which will be negotiated with the City Council over the nextseveral months before a spending plan is adopted in late spring orearly summer. The new budget year begins July 1.

The billionaire mayor said the economic picture has improved,but is far from bright.

Job losses will be less severe than expected but are expected tocontinue through this year. Wall Street saw record profits in 2009- the city forecasts $58.1 billion - but those are predicted tofall back as interest rates rise.

"Our city's economy still has a long ways to go towardrecovery," Bloomberg said. He added that New York "can't escapeanother set of difficult budget choices."

To help close a deficit of about $3.5 billion in fiscal 2011,his plan contains $484 million of savings for this fiscal year, and$1.1 billion for fiscal 2011.

The mayor's plan does not contain any new taxes. After raisingproperty and sales taxes in recent years, he said he did not thinkit was fair to overburden struggling New Yorkers.

The moves include eliminating four fire engine companies on topof 16 slated for closing last year, delaying a class of policecadets, shuttering four city swimming pools, cutting librarybudgets and closing a 24-hour homeless drop-in center.

Bloomberg also wants to raise parking rates from $2 an hour to$2.50 in midtown Manhattan and is examining the idea of eliminatingthe emergency fire alarm box system on city streets, which wouldrequire legislative approval.

He proposed slashing the 300,000-person city work force by morethan 4,200 jobs, 834 through layoffs and 3,352 through attrition.

The police, fire, corrections and sanitation departments arebeing spared from layoffs, which are mostly in the healthdepartment, cultural institutions and libraries.

The mayor also is asking for union savings, including a proposedsmaller annual raise for teachers.

Educators typically see a 4 percent raise automatically includedin the budget. Bloomberg is proposing that teachers accept a 2percent raise on the first $70,000 of their salary for the next twoyears.

The teachers union called the proposal "simply unacceptable."

Bloomberg threatened that rejecting it could mean 2,500 teacherlayoffs.

"The world has changed, and we have to make a choice,"Bloomberg said.

He also proposed basing raises for other unions on savingsnegotiated through productivity, pension reform and health caregivebacks.

Bloomberg has for years called on agencies to come up withrevenue-generating programs, in addition to trimming their ownbudgets.

Some of the ideas in his budget plan Thursday include more feesfor some buildings department applications, fines for repeatunnecessary fire alarms and higher fees for health departmentcourses such as the online food protection exam for restaurantsupervisors.

The state budget proposed by Gov. David Paterson last week casta shadow over the city's proposed budget plan.

As Bloomberg told lawmakers earlier this week in Albany, thegovernor's budget as-is would mean far worse cuts for the city thanwhat the mayor outlined Thursday.

"If it wasn't for the state, I would feel relativelycomfortable," Bloomberg said.

He said Paterson's proposed 2010-11 budget would cut $1.5billion in funding to the city. That would force the city to layoff3,150 police officers and 1,050 firefighters, close some firehousesand eliminate 8,500 teachers.

The city won't know until March or April whether it will have toadopt those plans.

To watch Mayor Michael Bloomberg's presentation for the fiscal 2011 budget, go to channel 612 on your iO digital cable box and select iO Extra.

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