In a December 29th letter to City Hall, Councilman Robert Holden asked de Blasio to focus his budget cuts on larger agencies, rather than the 59 community boards, which are made up of volunteer members and are run by just a few paid staff.
Holden, a 30-year member of Community Board 5 before being elected to office, said the boards, like elected officials’ offices, are tasked with constituent services, advising land use decisions and other important work.
“Local community boards are often the eyes and ears of our neighborhoods and provide excellent service,” he wrote. “They work to deliver municipal services and truly impact the residents’ lives within their confines.”
According to reports, city officials asked community boards to find thousands of dollars in savings, even though each board is only given about $257,000 to spend per year. The cuts are part of the Program to Eliminate the Gap (PEG), which requires city agencies to find savings by lowering expenses or increasing revenue.
The city is facing a $4 billion deficit due to the pandemic and economic shutdown. The latest $900 billion COVID-19 relief package passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump did not include aid for states and municipalities facing these budget holes.
Holden noted in his letter that community boards are already operating on low margins due to the first round of PEGs, so additional cuts would render them ineffective.
“We cannot afford to lose the services that a community board provides,” he wrote.
On December 22, de Blasio, responding to a question about budget cuts, said City Hall is getting ready for a presentation in January, which will include savings from all city agencies.
“What has been put out there initially is simply to get ideas and proposals back from agencies,” he said. “It’s not the final plan by any stretch.”
The “X factor,” the mayor said, is how the incoming Biden administration will focus on a larger stimulus package. Until then, de Blasio said, the city has to prepare for the worst.
“We have to be ready for anything and everything,” he said.
Asked about the possibility of layoffs, de Blasio said that will be “part of the discussion” unless the city gets help from the state or federal government.
“If we’re talking about next year, starting in July, unfortunately it’s a live possibility,” he added. “Because there’s so many missing pieces here.”