Log in Subscribe

A few of our stories and columns are now in front of the paywall. We at The Chief-Leader remain committed to independent reporting on labor and civil service. It's been our mission since 1897. You can have a hand in ensuring that our reporting remains relevant in the decades to come. Consider supporting The Chief, which you can do for as little as $3.20 a month.

'Shortsighted' cuts hurting city services, comptroller says


Instead of slashing funding for key programs and institutions such as libraries, alternatives to incarceration and the City University of New York, the Adams administration should look to reign in spending on uniformed overtime and reduce the number of crash claims, the city comptroller contends in a recent report.

The report by Comptroller Brad Lander’s office followed by a week Mayor Eric Adams’ announcement that he was shelving the last of three successive 5-percent budget reductions under his administration’s Program to Eliminate the Gap. 

“While we are pleased that agencies will not be forced to further reduce spending, it should not be an excuse to ignore reduced agency capacity, programmatic cuts that were not restored, and long-term structural issues with how we spend our tax dollars,” the comptroller’s 12-page report,  released Feb. 29, says. 

Although cuts to some municipal programs had already been restored — among them a job-training program at the city Parks Department and Department of Sanitation that serves mostly low-income residents — the report highlights that the majority of budget reductions remain intact, including to programs that educate New Yorkers and help keep them safe.

For example, PEG cuts at the City University of New York are expected to reach $96.1 million by Fiscal Year 2027. Nine colleges — in particular CUNY’s community colleges, which are partially funded by the city — have been singularly affected. In response to the cuts, the university system has nixed programs and eliminated full-time and part-time positions. It also enacted a hiring freeze and plans to reduce spending on adjunct staff by $20 million, a 13-percent reduction. CUNY has lost more than 1,300 full-time employees since 2018, the comptroller’s report says.

Although it notes that 5-percent cuts to libraries will save the city a “meager” $24 million from a nearly $110 billion FY 2025 preliminary budget, the trims have significantly impacted services: no library location within the city’s three library systems is open Sundays. But those cuts come at a time when there is growing demand for library services: the number of library card registrations across the three systems grew 37 percent from FY 22 to FY 23, according to the mayor’s management report.

Programs designed as alternatives to incarceration are being cut by 12 percent. The reduction in spending on ATI and on supervised-release programming, as well as on re-entry services, will total $27.8 million over the next fiscal year, the report found.

The report also highlights agencies that, despite not experiencing significant PEG cuts, the comptroller argues should receive increased investment, such as the Parks Department, where the elimination of 659 vacant positions could result in reduced programing and decreased maintenance of parks facilities.

The comptroller called on the city to address persistent overspending on costs such as uniformed overtime “rather than making shortsighted programmatic agency cuts.” The city has persistently under-budgeted overtime spending for uniformed employees, the report says, with the comptroller projecting that the city will underfund uniformed overtime by $600 million next year.

Human services get brunt of cuts

The report also advocates increased investment in providers for students with disabilities to help reduce the number of claims from families not receiving legally mandated services, known as Carter cases. The report also pushes for the city to install crash-reducing technology and to reduce its fleet of vehicles amid surging crash-settlement payouts. The city settled more than 4,650 claims between FY 2012 and FY 2021 for vehicular crashes, paying out nearly $654 million. The average payout doubled during this period, from $150,000 to $300,000, with more than half of the settlements having involving NYPD or Department of Sanitation vehicles.

“Despite last week’s announcement canceling the third round of PEGs this fiscal year, the Mayor’s preliminary budget cuts CUNY, libraries, cultural institutions, and vital re-entry programs that keep New Yorkers safe, and it fails to address critical challenges facing our Housing, Sanitation, and Parks Departments,” Lander said in a statement introducing the report. “A better way to address our fiscal challenges is to confront long-term areas of overspending, like uniformed overtime, crash claims, and Carter cases.”  

Similar to the comptroller’s conclusions, the city’s Independent Budget Office, in its own report looking at the second round of PEG cuts, found that the reductions disproportionately impacted human-services programming administered by city-contracted nonprofits, such as early childhood education, justice-system initiatives and older adult centers. 

The first round of PEG cuts saw the early childhood program’s budget slashed by $120 million, with additional $50 million cuts expected each year from FY 25 through FY 28. Older adult centers saw their budgets reduced by $13 million in the November plan and $18 million in January due to underutilization — “despite reports that attendance at centers has been rebounding since declines during the pandemic,” the IBO report notes.

The nonpartisan budget watchdog’s review also raises concerns about large vacancy reductions at the Department of Buildings, which slashed 137 unfilled positions, and at the Parks Department, which eliminated 375 vacancies. “Such headcount PEGs are potentially concerning given the staffing and service concerns IBO highlighted in recent City Council testimony,” the IBO report states. “The reductions in some key areas may pose challenges to the City’s ability to deliver critical services to New Yorkers.”


We depend on the support of readers like you to help keep our publication strong and independent. Join us.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here