Wall Street Journal: Council Aims to Reverse Budget Cuts
By Michael Howard Saul
December 2, 2010
A new analysis of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's budget cuts by advocates for the elderly shows the plan will cause 8,000 senior citizens to lose in-home counseling services and result in 110 layoffs.
But a spokesman for the city Department for the Aging said Wednesday the city plans to order its service providers not to drop any seniors from the rolls. Instead, the providers' caseloads would increase dramatically; case managers, on average, currently have 64 clients each.
The mayor last month unveiled plans to cut $3.3 million from the elderly-case-management program as part of a plan to slash $585 million from the current fiscal-year budget to reduce the following year's deficit.
Mr. Bloomberg doesn't need City Council approval for these cuts and has the legal authority to move forward with them unilaterally. Still, in recent days, council officials began negotiations with the administration in hopes of reversing some cuts.
"We're going to fight to prevent cuts that we disagree with," vowed Speaker Christine Quinn, a Manhattan Democrat. "We will come up with alternative cuts, while at the same time remaining focused on our goal of protecting the most vulnerable New Yorkers."
A hearing on the budget plan is slated for Monday.
Marc LaVorgna, a spokesman for Mr. Bloomberg, acknowledged that the mayor's plan "makes many difficult, painful choices." Even with these cuts, the city faces a $2.4 billion deficit next fiscal year.
Mr. LaVorgna praised the council for understanding the tough fiscal circumstances but declined to comment on the likelihood of the mayor reversing any of the cuts he proposed.
Council Member Jessica Lappin, chairwoman of the council's aging committee, called the cuts to the elderly "heartless" and a top priority for restoration.
Bobbie Sackman, director of public policy for the Council of Senior Centers and Services of New York City, an advocacy group, said her organization contacted the nonprofit agencies that provide case-management services to seniors at the city's behest. These agencies said the cuts will force them to lay off 110 case managers and that roughly 8,000 homebound elders will lose services, Ms. Sackman said. The city provides case-management services to 18,000 seniors; 800 are currently on the waiting list.
Christopher Miller, a spokesman for the Department for the Aging, said the agency plans to work with its providers to examine "alternate ways to restructure the service to minimize the impact on the city's most fragile and isolated seniors."
The city has given the providers wide discretion on how to manage the budget reduction, Mr. Miller said. He said it was premature to comment on potential layoffs.
Ms. Sackman said the notion that no client will lose services is unrealistic. The waiting list is a clear sign that "services are already overloaded," she said.
Council Member Domenic Recchia, chairman of the finance committee, said that in addition to the cuts to the elderly he's also concerned about reductions to child-welfare staff and nighttime closures of firehouses. "I hope we will be able to have an impact and convince the administration we shouldn't take such drastic cuts now," he said.