NYC's Budgetary Blues Intensify

"The impacts of [the] recession were slow to affect New York City. But now everything has changed. Job losses in the city are accelerating and, with that come projections of sharper tax revenue losses and growing budget deficits." - Gotham Gazette

With forecasts calling for a deficit of $1.3 billion in fiscal year 2010, one wonders why New York City officials are working to enact laws and regulations that might actually exacerbate fiscal strains.  Last month, I reported on the restrictions that have been placed on faith-based homeless shelters -- that they must be open five days or not at all.

Surely someone must recognize the assistance that these shelters provide individuals and the city alike.  This is just one of the many examples that showcase how rules and regulations are not jiving with the fiscal dilemma the city must confront.  Shouldn't city officials be encouraging local institutions to get involved in social justice issues, rather than creating policy what would hamper relevant efforts?  With more than nine thousand documented families without a home, you'd think that the regulatory meandering would have subsided.

Let's face it -- NYC is slated to face a $7 billion deficit by the year 2011.  The situation is grim at best.  So, how do we make it through?  And by "make it through" I mean "How do we minimize the damage?"   

Indeed, taxes could be raised - a dangerously unpopular notion for New Yorkers who are already scrounging to meet basic needs.  Or, perhaps city government officials can reassess spending schemes (or save some money by, say, allowing faith-based homeless shelters to operate on a reasonable basis, as to release the city from at least a small piece of the fiscal burden).

Bolstered in part by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's spending, the average New York City employee cost the city $107,000 a year in wages, health insurance, pension and other benefits in the 2008 fiscal year.  While I am in no way insinuating that every city worker is overpaid, but it is surely time for officials to explore what's working and what's not.  This would, indeed, mean exploring employee costs and benefits and ensuring that monies are being spent optimally. 

And what about transportation costs?  The commute using the Metropolitan Transit Authority is going to weigh down pocket books and increase commuter burden if the proposed fare hikes and service amendments are made.  Two days ago, more than 400 angry New Yorkers showed up to protest during a public "hearing."  The New York Times has more:

About 40 minutes into the hearing, the authority chairman, H. Dale Hemmerdinger, addressed the crowd, which had grown raucous at times.

"I want to assure you we don't want to do any of what we have proposed," he said over the shouts. "We don't want to do any of this. We don't want to frighten anybody." Over some boos, he encouraged the audience to write to lawmakers to urge them to provide more money for the authority.

More money to the authority?  Is this the same authority that The New York Times reported would have a "...surplus...probably...$140 million greater than the authority's earlier estimate of $711 million" back in September 2006?  And if news reports are correct, the same thing (a surplus) allegedly occured in 2007.  Where did all the money go?

Back in May 2008, the lede to a Daily News piece read: "The cash-strapped MTA will pay a former top-level executive $200,000 to do nothing."  While the MTA is making efforts to collapse management positions, actions such as this may explain why -- in aggregate -- the city is facing constraints.  Greed, corruption and monetary waste permeate every branch of government. 

It's time that the people stand up in unison to ignite real change.

This piece was written for Billy Hallowell’s Red County blog located at http://www.redcounty.com/nyc

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