Mayor Bill de Blasio Set to Release City Budget -- 3rd update

By Mara Gay Features Dow Jones Newswires

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected to roll out his executive budget on Wednesday, an $84.86 billion proposal that comes at a time when city officials are bracing for potential cuts from the Trump administration.

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Mr. de Blasio's budget would increase spending by more than $2.7 billion from this year's adopted budget of $82.12 billion. The proposal also includes hundreds of millions in reserves meant to boost the city's position amid unease about possible cuts in funding from Washington, D.C.

"In the face of continued uncertainty, it is more important than ever that cities make smart, targeted investments aimed at improving people's lives," Mr. de Blasio said in a statement Wednesday. "We cannot respond to threats of funding cuts by pulling on back our own investments or values. Instead, we must continue to make this city a place where everyone can have a chance to succeed."

The executive budget proposal is for fiscal year 2018, which begins July 1, and must be approved by the City Council.

Even after it is adopted, the city's budget generally is readjusted several times throughout the year. This year's budget has ballooned to $85.5 billion from $82.12 billion when it was adopted last June, for example -- an increase of nearly $3.4 billion.

The plan Mr. de Blasio is set to unveil Wednesday afternoon is nearly $200 million higher than the preliminary budget he proposed in January.

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City officials said the increase largely is driven by federal funding. It also includes initiatives the mayor recently has proposed such as a $36 million plan to expand the city's free prekindergarten program.

The city's budget has steadily grown during Mr. de Blasio's first term. It is up about $15 billion from almost $70 billion in fiscal year 2014, the last year it was negotiated under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat, has used revenues from a strong economy to invest heavily in programs to fight homelessness and poverty. He also has increased the size of the city's workforce. The number of full-time and full-time equivalent city employees reached 313,092 last year, up about 16,000 from 297,349 under Mr. Bloomberg.

The mayor's proposal must be approved by the City Council by June 30.

Write to Mara Gay at mara.gay@wsj.com

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio rolled out his executive budget Wednesday, an $84.86 billion proposal that comes at a time when city officials are bracing for potential cuts from the Trump administration.

Mr. de Blasio's budget would increase spending by more than $2.7 billion from this year's adopted budget of $82.12 billion. The proposal also includes hundreds of millions in reserves meant to boost the city's position amid unease about possible cuts in funding from Washington, D.C.

"There is a deep uncertainty," Mr. de Blasio said at City Hall on Wednesday. "Our job is to be vigilant. Our job is to work with members of Congress and with mayors...to protect the interests of cities."

The executive budget proposal is for fiscal year 2018, which begins July 1, and must be approved by the City Council.

Even after it is adopted, the city's budget generally is readjusted several times throughout the year. This year's budget has ballooned to $85.5 billion from $82.12 billion when it was adopted last June, for example -- an increase of nearly $3.4 billion.

Mr. de Blasio's plan is nearly $200 million higher than the preliminary budget he proposed in January.

City officials said the increase largely is driven by federal funds that had been allocated under the administration of President Barack Obama but that the city only recently received. It also includes initiatives the mayor recently has proposed such as a $36 million plan to expand the city's free prekindergarten program.

The city's budget has steadily grown during Mr. de Blasio's first term. It is up about $15 billion from almost $70 billion in fiscal year 2014, the last year it was negotiated under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat, has used revenues from a strong economy to invest heavily in programs to fight homelessness and poverty. He also has increased the size of the city's workforce. The number of full-time and full-time equivalent city employees reached 313,092 last year, up about 16,000 from 297,349 under Mr. Bloomberg.

On Wednesday, the mayor said he planned to institute a partial hiring freeze, a measure he said would help protect the city's fiscal standing. The freeze, he said, primarily would impact "managerial and administrative" positions.

"We are in a situation that requires sustained vigilance," he said.

Some budget experts said city spending under the plan is too high.

Carol Kellermann, president of the Citizens Budget Commission, a nonpartisan watchdog group, said in a statement Wednesday that "in an atmosphere of political and economic uncertainty," the budget "should have exhibited more spending restraint."

About 10% of the city's budget comes from federal funding. In one example of the potential impact on New York City, budget experts and city officials have said the city could lose billions of dollars in the event of the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

But Mr. de Blasio said it didn't make sense to "sit around dead in the water" waiting to see how the Trump administration and Congress would act.

"We're not going to let the uncertainty in Washington stop us from doing some smart and targeted investments," he said.

The mayor also proposed a $95.9 billion 10-year capital plan, up from $83.8 billion two years ago. The capital plan, which funds infrastructure, includes investments such as $355 million to replace building facades in the city's aging public-housing system, which is home to more than 400,000 New Yorkers.

The mayor's proposal must be approved by the City Council by June 30.

Write to Mara Gay at mara.gay@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

April 26, 2017 16:17 ET (20:17 GMT)