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New York City Leaders Reach Deal on Austere Budget, Police Cuts — Update

By Katie Honan 

Mayor Bill de Blasio said he and New York City Council leaders had reached an agreement on an $88.19 billion budget for the coming fiscal year that drastically cuts city spending while shifting $1 billion in funding from the New York Police Department to youth and social services.

The council was poised to vote on the budget Tuesday night after weeks of negotiations framed by an economic crisis brought on by the new coronavirus pandemic and mounting calls for defunding and reforming the police department. The mayor's preliminary budget, proposed in February before the pandemic, was $95.3 billion.

More than a dozen of the council's 50 members vowed to vote against the budget over varying concerns about NYPD funding, according to people familiar with the matter. Some of the members said the reductions to police funding weren't significant. Others said they opposed major funding reductions to the NYPD.

Council Speaker Corey Johnson, a Democrat who is one of the most influential members in the negotiation process, supported the budget but said he wanted more cuts to the police department.

"To everyone who is disappointed we did not go deeper, I am disappointed as well," he said. Mr. de Blasio wouldn't budge on some of the larger cuts, he said.

A spokeswoman for the mayor said "he worked to find cuts that allowed us to reinvest in youth and communities in need while keeping our streets safe."

Under the budget agreement, overtime for NYPD personnel would be reduced and an upcoming class of more than 1,100 police academy cadets would be canceled. About $500 million would be taken out of the NYPD's capital budget and allocated toward summer youth programming, education, recreation centers and broadband infrastructure at the city's public-housing developments.

A homeless-engagement unit and school crossing guards, which are currently under the police budget, would be shifted to other agencies, Mr. de Blasio said.

In all, more than $1 billion in funds would be shifted from the police department to other agencies. The NYPD's annual operating budget would drop to about $5 billion from nearly $6 billion.

"This is real redistribution," the mayor, a Democrat, said at a press conference.

Councilman Ben Kallos, a Democrat who represents neighborhoods in Manhattan, said Tuesday he wouldn't vote for the budget after seeing part of what was proposed. He said he wanted more meaningful cuts to the police department. He criticized the negotiations process as opaque.

"People talk about the city budget like it's something that anyone can read, and negotiate, when the truth is that it is completely opaque, and on the day of the vote, council members still haven't even seen the budget," he said.

Other council members said they wouldn't vote in favor of a budget that makes significant cuts to the police.

"I do not support the excessive cuts to the NYPD," Councilman Steven Matteo, a Republican who represents parts of Staten Island, said Tuesday on Twitter.

The mayor and the council faced increased pressure to cut the NYPD's funding after weeks of large-scale demonstrations across the U.S. over the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25. For more than a week, protesters have camped outside City Hall in lower Manhattan to push for large cuts to the police department.

Mr. de Blasio said that the budget agreement focuses on programs to assist New Yorkers who have been struggling during the financial crisis and "helps us to become a fairer city." But the budget deal cuts some initiatives that helped residents, including $65 million from Fair Fares, a program that offers half-price MetroCards to low-income New Yorkers.

The budget deal includes $1 billion in labor savings that are still being negotiated with unions, Mr. de Blasio said. Officials have said the city still faces billions in lost tax revenue over the next two years. If the city doesn't receive more help, it could resort to up to 22,000 layoffs and furloughs in the fall, according to the mayor.

The mayor has said he still hopes the city will receive federal stimulus money. He had also urged state lawmakers to grant the city the authority to borrow up to $5 billion, but his request went nowhere.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday that he still wasn't eager to authorize city officials to borrow money to close gaps in the operating budget. The Democratic governor had been skeptical of earlier requests by City Hall, which landed with a thud in the state Legislature.

"I don't want to have a de facto bankruptcy where the state's going to have to come in and bail out the debt," Mr. Cuomo said on NY1, adding that the timeline for the city's economic recovery is uncertain. "I focus on the paying back, as do most taxpayers."

--Jimmy Vielkind contributed to this article.

Write to Katie Honan at Katie.Honan@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 30, 2020 19:41 ET (23:41 GMT)

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