Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Thursday he is leaving Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio a budget that is balanced through mid-2015, and fiscal watchdogs predicted that would give the new administration more flexibility.
Higher-than-expected tax revenue of more than $500 million, plus the sales of city-owned buildings and new taxicab medallions, helped erase a projected $2 billion shortfall for the 2015 budget year, which starts in July 2014, Bloomberg said at City Hall.
“It reduces the pain and means it is one less thing he has to worry about,” Bloomberg said.
Experts said it appeared de Blasio would be spared some of the pressure new mayors face.
“It’s good news for the next mayor,” said Maria Doulis of the nonpartisan Citizens Budget Commission. “Under normal circumstances, he would come in in January and have about a month to put together a budget proposal to balance the budget.”
Doulis said de Blasio might even be able to fund his signature campaign pledge, expanded prekindergarten and after-school programs, without tax hikes on income over $500,000.
“Assuming the economy doesn’t tank and continues to grow well and he pursues inefficiencies, it’s possible that he would be able to find savings from within the budget,” she said.
De Blasio’s transition team greeted the news gingerly. “We’re reviewing the budget modification released by the mayor today, and remain concerned about the continued impact of sequestration [federal spending curbs set by Congress], high uncertainty around the flow of Sandy recovery aid, and the liabilities from unresolved labor contracts,” spokeswoman Lis Smith said.
“We will continue to review this new budget information closely in the coming days and weeks.”
All 152 open labor contracts have expired, and unions are demanding retroactive raises, some dating back years. Bloomberg has warned that granting back pay would blow an $8 billion hole in the budget.