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$78.3B de Blasio budget plan seems to set stage for compromise

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio at

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio at Baruch College in Manhattan on Feb. 3, 2015. Credit: Getty Images / Andrew Burton

Mayor Bill de Blasio did not yield to the City Council's request for 1,000 additional NYPD officers in the $78.3 billion executive budget he unveiled Thursday, but he seemed to set the stage for compromise as negotiations begin and Police Commissioner William Bratton lobbied openly for more cops.

"I'm very confident with what's happening right now with the resources we have. In fact, I think the NYPD is getting better all the time," de Blasio told reporters at City Hall.

"In the budget process, until the whole process is complete, there's any number of potential outcomes," de Blasio said, adding that he expects "productive conversations" with council members and Bratton before a final budget is set by July 1, the start of the fiscal year.

Thursday night, a statement from NYPD Deputy Commissioner Stephen Davis said, "The police commissioner is confident that there will be an increase in the size of the force necessary to staff the recommendations of the re-engineering study that is nearing completion. Discussions with the mayor's office are continuing."

The mayor cited economic uncertainty -- or "storm clouds on the horizon" -- as a reason to beef up the city's general reserve fund to $1 billion annually, from about $350 million to $400 million under Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

De Blasio also planned to increase the retiree health benefit trust fund to $2.6 billion and create a so-called capital stabilization reserve with $500 million to fund infrastructure and to retire debt.

"We have to prepare locally for things beyond our boundaries, and if problems occur, we do not expect anyone to save us," de Blasio said during the 98-minute presentation, which began about 15 minutes late after he huddled with staff members and munched a burger outside at City Hall Plaza.

The city must brace itself against domestic economic risks such as slowing gross domestic product and job growth, international ones such as the shaky eurozone and the kind of unexpected crises that have rocked the city, such as the 9/11 terror attacks and superstorm Sandy, he said.

The executive budget represents a hike in spending from the $77.7 billion preliminary budget de Blasio proposed in February and the $75 billion budget approved for the current fiscal year.

City Council members said they were disappointed that the mayor didn't include funding for more police on the street.

"The overtime numbers scream that we need more officers, so we're going to go with the data and the statistics," said Julissa Ferreras, a Queens Democrat and chairwoman of the City Council finance committee. "Commissioner Bratton has expressed that he needs more officers, so when the top cop in New York City is saying, 'I need more officers,' and the council is saying we need to pay for more officers, then there's got to be a point where the mayor says, 'The council is correct.' "

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said the plan denies Bratton "the tools he needs to continue to keep crime low while also improving police-community relations."

De Blasio also did not include council-requested funding for universal free lunches and breakfasts in schools, a year-round youth employment program and a bail fund for low-level offenses.

Public safety initiatives in de Blasio's proposal include $36.4 million to curb inmate violence on Rikers Island, $1.8 million to expand the NYPD's ShotSpotter gunshot-detection program and $5.2 million for the Vision Zero drive to prevent pedestrian deaths. The budget also waives the New York City Housing Authority's annual $33 million payment to the city in lieu of taxes.

The independent Citizens Budget Commission applauded de Blasio for bolstering reserves, but said his commitments to social services "may not be sustainable in the face of out-year budget gaps and risks to the economy."

Comptroller Scott Stringer in a statement said, "The budget increases the Retiree Health Benefits Trust, raises the general reserve and rolls additional funds to next year's budget, all prudent steps that improve the City's ability to respond to the next downturn."


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