The FY 2012 New York City Budget Proposal: Sanitation


One New York City service where arguments over the quality of work and the effect of the budget have involved real, rather than threatened, changes is the Department of Sanitation. In the fall, Sanitation Workers’ Union head Harry Nespoli warned that as a result of budget cuts, his members would not be able to clear the snow in a snowstorm. And sure enough, when New York City was hit by a major snowstorm the day after Christmas 2010, the snow was not cleared. So how much was the Department of Sanitation budget cut from FY 2008, before the onset of the recession, to FY 2011, the current fiscal year? Anyone want to guess?

The FY 2012 NYC Budget Proposal: Education


This post is an overview of spending on New York City’s Department of Education, based on New York City budget documents, with a spreadsheet provided as an attachment to this post. Residents of New York City and their parents are going to hear a great deal about budget cuts in the next few months, with the teacher layoffs and early point of controversy in the budget. But in fact total spending on the Department of Education increased 14.8% from FY 2008, before the start of the recession, to FY 2011, and its personal services spending increased 9.7%, while the consumer price index increased 4.3%. In exchange the number of teachers was reduced by 5,000. According to the FY 2012 budget proposal, total spending will once again increase by 4.5% and personal services spending will increase 2.2%. Still the number of teachers is proposed to be reduced by another 6,000. For a total teacher reduction of 13.8% — in exchange for an increase of spending on personal services of 12.1% over the four years. So what happened?

The City of New York Budget: Charging More, and Providing Less


The city budget has been released, and no doubt we are going to spend the next few months hearing about all the things the government is no longer going to do for us. Leaders of public employee unions, in particular, may be expected to talk about all the services the people of New York City no longer deserve because they aren’t paying enough. They will demand that we pay more. So you might expect, particularly given the devastation of the financial crisis, that New Yorkers are paying less. But it isn’t so.

The best way to see this is to look at the NYC “Budget Summary” documents from January 2008, with an estimate of FY 2008 spending on page 48, and the just released “Budget Summary” from February 2011, with an estimate of spending for this fiscal year (FY 2011) on page 49 and a proposal for FY 2012 on page 50. To his credit, since Mayor Bloomberg has taken office he has provided a summary of what each agency actually costs, including not only wages but also fringe benefits, contracts, pensions, debt service, and judgments and claims. Most of the pension and fringe benefit data had previously just been lumped together for all agencies combined. With the FY 2008 data, we can look back to Census Bureau data for FY2008, comparing NYC with staffing and pay by function with local governments elsewhere, and public school spending in more detail, to provide background for what has changed since. A discussion follows.

A Surprisingly Severe Storm


I generally get my weather directly from the National Weather Service website, where in addition to the text forecast I make use of the "Hourly Weather Graph" and radar to decide the mode (bicycle, subway) and timing of my commute. When something big may be going on, I also read the detailed "Forecast Discussion," which includes the thinking behind the forecast, information about models not in agreement, possible changes as events develop, etc. I certainly did so over Christmas weekend, with travel planned for my immediate and extended family. But I couldn't remember when the forecast changed.

So I went through the archived "Forecast Discussion" from the NWS, and found the following. As late as Christmas Eve, the storm was expected to basically miss most of the NY metro, excluding eastern Long Island and Connecticut. On Christmas morning, the possibility of a 6 to 9 inch snowstorm was forecast, and a “Winter Storm Watch” was issued. Someone should have been watching, because Christmas afternoon it was suddenly upgraded to a “Blizzard Warning.” It was still expected to be a powerful but not devastating storm in NYC until just after noon on Sunday, the day the storm hit, when the snow accumulation totals were updated. Bottom line: this storm put out more fakes than Michael Vick, so it is no surprise that a stunned city and MTA shanked a punt to Desean Jackson. The four “Forecast Discussions” follow in full: bold and italics were added by me.  If you bore easily, just read those parts.

No Peace Dividend From The Department of Corrections


The New York Times reported today that New York City’s jail population is way down. “Among the 50 jurisdictions in the country with the greatest number of inmates, including larger cities and urban counties, New York ranks 47th in the average number of inmates jailed on any given day relative to its total population, according to a survey by the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Philadelphia Research Initiative.”

That’s strange because when I tabulated local government corrections employment per 100,000 residents using employment and payroll data from the 2007 Census of Governments, I found that New York City’s average of 160 was nearly double the U.S. average of 86. The data is in the spreadsheet attached to the post.  The figure is 74 for Los Angeles County, 110 for Cook County (Chicago), and 97 for Harris County (Houston). The only places that seem to be similar to NYC is older cities co-terminus (or nearly so) with county boundaries, such as San Francisco (172), Washington DC (215), Suffolk County Mass (Boston) 151, and Philadelphia County (168). Some of these places have more crime than New York, but the amount of inmates doesn’t seem to be what is driving corrections employment here.

The Rest of the Story


If you listened to the radio over the holiday weekend, you heard commercials from the United Federation of Teachers and the Uniformed Firefighter Association decrying the consequences for city residents and schoolchildren of drastic funding cuts for their agencies. How great are those proposed spending cuts? The answer may be found in the tables on page 40 to 44 of this document, the city's May budget summary.

Total spending on the Department of Education, with all cost including retirement and debt service included, is proposed to increase by $306 million or 1.4%, in a year when inflation is zero and many people's wages are going down. To achieve this, the city's contribution is proposed to be increased by $833 million, minimum. The Fire Department budget is proposed to be reduced by $4 million, or 0.1%, with the city's contribution increasing by $133 million. What is going down is not what New Yorkers are paying, it is what they are getting in exchange.

Hey News and Post: What About One Officer Patrols?


I find it ridiculous that at a time when some other types of spending are finally being scrutinized for the value we are getting, the NYPD is being given a pass. Yes the ranks of officers are down, but as the data in the spreadsheet attached to this post show,New York City had 2 ½ times the national average number of police officers relative to population in March 2007. This in a city where the crime rate was about average. The average NYC police office earned 35.1% more than the national average that month (a figure that used to be low in NYC), while the average NYC private sector worker earned 32.3% more than average if finance is excluded, a figure likely lower today. New York City police officers contribute far less to their own pensions than police officers elsewhere. In New Jersey, the police had been contributing 7 ½ percent of their salaries to the pensions, compared with zero in New York City, and the New Jersey figure is almost certainly going up. Communities in New Jersey have been contributing zero to the pensions, a ripoff for the cops, whereas in New York City police wages are topped off by an employer pension contribution of more than 50.0% and going up, a ripoff by the cops. The NYC police retire after 20 years, with gold plated health care for life, and their pensions are not taxed. Add it up and NYC residents, who pay just about the highest taxes in the U.S. as a share of their income, paid 67.0% more for police than the national average as a share of that income in FY 2006, as can be seen in the spreadsheet attached to this post, a figure that is almost certainly higher today and higher still tomorrow. Because while the number of police officers can be cut, the far higher cost of ex-officers never is.

Turnout Impression


In 2008, I showed up a 6 a.m. at PS 154 Windsor Terrace to cast a vote I knew wouldn’t matter, because everyone knew Obama would take New York. There was already a line around the corner.

Today, I grudgingly rolled down to the same location at 7:30 am. There was no line, and I was told there had been no line all morning.