Community boards have been spared cuts by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in a move that pleased grass roots community activists, who were concerned that the mayor’s recently released Executive Budget would impose cuts affecting the ability of the boards to perform their chartered tasks.
The news came when the Mayor’s Fiscal Year 2011 budget was released on Thursday, May 6. The boards had been expecting a cut of more than 30% of their operating budgets, which would total about $200,000 each per year. The mayor’s budget is not final. It needs to be reconciled with the City Council’s by the start of the fiscal year, on July 1. However, it is unlikely to change drastically.
In explaining his position, Bloomberg said that he did not feel that the money cut from the city’s 59 community boards would result in significant enough savings to justify putting them on the chopping block. The boards, which are the smallest unit of city government, had experienced the same percentage cuts as other city agencies for the past three years. This caused controversy, because some have argued that the small, autonomous agencies could not handle the same percentage cuts as larger city agencies.
“In these very difficult budget times, it’s hard to exempt anybody, but community boards really don’t get that much money out of the $63 or $64 billion dollar budget, and I think they really do provide a lot,” said Mayor Bloomberg on his radio show. “So I think community boards will come out of this budget cycle. You know, they’ll always want more, but they won’t get less, and that’s a positive.”
Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., who bemoaned the mayor’s planned 11.3% cut to libraries and cultural institutions and cuts to fire companies, said, “I am pleased to see that our community boards have been spared the budget knife, and I am hopeful that we’ll see a further investment in these resources in the future.
Councilman James Vacca, who served as district manager of Community Board 10 for 25 years, said that if the size of the cut originally projected at the start of the 2010 had occurred, some boards wouldn’t even be able to operate during regular business hours.
“I think that the community boards and those of us who have been supportive of the boards were successful in making our case to the Mayor that they would be crippled due to the cuts,” Vacca said.
Father Richard Gorman, chairman of Community Board 12,said, “The cuts that the mayor’s budget office first proposed would have put an effective end to community boards and a knife in the heart of grass roots government. The intent of what the mayor wants will come out in the charter revision commission actions. I am opposed to any changes in terms of land use.”