NEW YORK — The City Council on Wednesday approved a roughly $66 billion budget that will reduce the number of public school teachers, lay off workers and cut back on caseworkers for the homebound elderly – all while averting deep cuts that city leaders had argued were all but inevitable.
The vote, which formalizes the handshake agreement that Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn reached Friday, ends a contentious budget season in which the mayor had said that severe cutbacks in city and state funding along with a struggling economy made it necessary for the nation’s largest city to dial back core services and lay off more than 4,000 teachers.
In the end, though, lawmakers said they would not give the city’s teachers their first pink slips since the economic crisis of the 1970s. Instead, the 2,600 public school teachers expected to quit or retire this year won’t be replaced. Taken along with the attrition of the last two years, the change represents a loss of 1 out of every 12 instructors.
The city does plan to lay off about 1,000 nonuniformed employees, although officials have not yet revealed which agencies will be hit.
Those losses and others were enough to make City Councilman Charles Barron – the lone dissenting vote on the financial plan – insist his colleagues had been snookered by budgetary showmanship.
“They never were going to do that,” he said of the worst of the cuts threatened in the mayor’s initial budget plan. “That’s a red herring – to make you think you do have a victory when they put it back.”
But Stephanie Gendell, associate executive director for advocacy group Citizens’ Committee for Children, said that the budget’s restored funding for children’s programs represented real victories, even though several dozen child-care classrooms are still expected to close.
“We’re very pleased, given where we started and given how bleak the economic situation seemed,” she said.
Among the threatened programs that Gendell said had been saved were 257 government-subsidized preschool classrooms, day care offered at providers’ homes for more than 2,700 kids and six day care centers.