New York's billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled plans Thursday for eliminating the jobs of 10,000 city workers and slashing spending by nearly $1.6 billion.
These drastic attacks on the city's workforce and vital services are to be carried out between now and the end of the next fiscal year, in June of 2012, with virtually every city agency affected.
Fire fighting, schools, aid to children, care for seniors, youth jobs, libraries, cultural institutions, parks and road repair are all on the chopping block.
Only the New York Police Department has been spared the ax based on the evident conclusion that with the sweeping attacks on social services and rising unemployment, policing the yawning social divide between the city's layer of billionaires and multi-millionaires and the millions living in poverty will be at a greater premium than ever.
The latest announcement of drastic austerity measures came in the city's annual November review of the financial plan for the current fiscal year and an updating of a four-year financial plan. It marks the ninth round of budget cuts since the Wall Street meltdown of 2008 blew a huge hole in the city's revenues. It includes the most severe cuts proposed since the onset of the crisis, reflecting in part the drying up of federal stimulus money at the end of this fiscal year.
The mayor's plan will slash $585 million from spending in the current fiscal year, and $1 billion from fiscal 2012, which begins next July.
The aim in inflicting what will be suffering for thousands of laid off workers and millions of other New Yorkers is to only partially close a $3.3 billion budget gap. Bloomberg, New York City's richest individual, could cover the entire deficit out of his own pocket and have $15 billion left over.
In a statement accompanying the latest cutback and layoff proposals, Bloomberg bragged of "never shying away making the hard decisions," by which he means deciding to place the full burden of the crisis created by his fellow Wall Street billionaires squarely on the backs of the working class and most impoverished sections of the population.
"More spending reductions are going to be necessary," said the mayor, "and we are going to continue to reduce the number of employees we have by not filling positions--we simply cannot afford the size of our current workforce."
Together with the cutbacks, the mayor issued a new edict to all city agencies, restricting new hiring to one employee for every two jobs that are eliminated, providing that funding is available.
Bearing the brunt of the attacks are the city's schools. The school system is facing the elimination of 6,166 teachers' and other education jobs, out of a total workforce of 135,000. At least 4,278 of these cuts will come through layoffs and the rest through attrition. The Department of Education is being hit with a $350 million budget cut, even though the city is actually increasing its school spending. The schools face the loss of $853 million in Federal stimulus funding, which is only partly being made up. Before increasing its spending on education, the city had projected 10,000 teacher layoffs.
The layoffs will only exacerbate a growing crisis in class sizes in New York City's schools fueled by previous budget cuts and reductions in teaching staff. The rising numbers of students in the city's classrooms have made a mockery of a 2007 agreement settling a lawsuit brought by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity that was supposed to reduce class sizes.
According to the latest Department of Education figures reported Thursday, the average class size citywide rose 2 percent, to 23.7 students, compared to 22.9 last year, with middle school classes averaging 27, compared to 26.1 a year ago. High school classes average 27 students.
Among Bloomberg's other proposals is shutting down 20 fire stations at night. A plan that the mayor attempted to push through last year that would have shut down 20 fire companies altogether was met with vocal resistance from residents in the affected neighborhoods and was quashed when the City Council restored funding. The nighttime closing will be equally unpopular, threatening loss of life as response times for fire companies that remain open inevitably rise.
Independent studies have made clear not only the socially but also the economically destructive character of cutting back on fire service, which is responsible each year for saving billions of dollars in property that would otherwise be destroyed.
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