New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says another 9,000 city employees will be subjected to a compulsory five-day furlough in a bid to save the city $21 million, amid a broader drive to balance the budget.
Speaking at a press conference on Sept. 23, de Blasio said both managerial and unrepresented employees would be among those who must take an unpaid week off between next month and March 2021, citing the need to confront the city’s budget crisis.
“As we know about this pandemic, it is hitting us on so many levels all at once—so many crises wrapped within the bigger crisis, and one of them, of course, is the challenge this city faces because of the economic crisis, because of the budget crisis,” de Blasio said.
The city faces a $9 billion deficit over the next two years.
“The economy of New York City, which was the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic at its onset, has been hit harder than the nation thus far,” wrote city Comptroller Scott M. Stringer, in recent comments on the city’s adopted budget for fiscal year 2021.
“In New York City, employment plunged by about 20 percent from February to April and grew by a smaller 3.4 percent from April to June,” he wrote. “The FY 2021 Adopted Budget reflects the ravaging of the City’s economy and tax revenues by the pandemic.”
According to the most recent tax revenue projections from the Independent Budget Office, a nonpartisan agency that assists New York City authorities in their budgeting process, expected tax collections for fiscal years 2020 and 2021 have, since January, been revised downwards by $8.5 billion, while the forecast for 2022 has dropped by nearly $5 billion.
“We have to keep taking action to address this situation,” de Blasio said, adding, “none of them are pleasant, none of them are things we’d want to do at all in normal times.”
De Blasio called the latest round of furloughs a “difficult” and “painful” decision.
“It’s a difficult one because it will affect real people and their lives,” de Blasio said. “It will affect their families and these are the people who have been working non-stop for months trying to protect all of you and look out for the whole city.”
“It’s something very sad when the people who have worked so hard have to sacrifice further,” he said, adding that layoffs remain a possibility.
“We need to keep finding savings to keep bridging us to give us a chance to get something better than layoffs. No one wants to see layoffs, but unfortunately, they’re still on the table,” de Blasio said.
Last week, the mayor announced he and nearly 500 mayor’s office employees would be subjected to a five-day furlough. He warned that, without federal stimulus funds or additional borrowing authority from Albany, the city may have to lay off 22,000 municipal workers.
De Blasio also took aim at the federal government, as well as Gov. Andrew Cuomo, for so far failing to help bail out the Big Apple.
“Look, what would really solve this—federal stimulus—and it’s shocking that it still hasn’t happened, and hope continues to dim for anything in the next few months. And then long-term borrowing—Albany, I continue to say it is a straightforward time-honored option, it is something that makes so much sense to stop this uncertainty, and we’re going to keep fighting for that as well,” he said.
The issue of whether New York City can borrow billions of dollars to cover red ink in the city budget will be decided in Albany, where legislation would have to be passed to allow borrowing to cover long-term expenditures.
Some fiscal experts have pushed back against calls to expand New York City’s long-term borrowing powers.
“There is no need for de Blasio to borrow,” said Stephen Berger, an investment banker who once served as the executive director of the New York State Emergency Control Board for the City of New York, in remarks to The City.
“You can take 4 [percent] or 5 [percent] out of the budget,” Berger added.
“Borrowing will likely be used to prop up unaffordable spending, leaving gaps in subsequent years,” said Andrew Rein, president of the Citizens Budget Commission, in remarks to The City. “This sets the stage for more borrowing, and more borrowing—the dynamic that got New York into so much trouble 50 years ago.”